Preparing Your Path to Justice

 

Car AccidentsWhat Should You Do If a Traffic Signal is Malfunctioning?

January 29, 2024by Crystal Henry

Intersections are critical points on our roadways where the flow of traffic is carefully orchestrated by traffic signals.

However, when these signals malfunction, chaos can ensue, leading to potential accidents and confusion among drivers and pedestrians.

As a responsible driver, understanding what to do when faced with a malfunctioning traffic signal is crucial.

In this article, we will explore the proper steps to take and shed light on the legal aspects surrounding accidents caused by malfunctioning traffic lights.

Causes of Traffic Light Malfunctions

Before delving into the protocol to follow, it’s essential to comprehend the common causes of traffic light malfunctions.

Various factors contribute to signal lights going awry, including natural elements like lightning and high winds, wear and tear of equipment, car accidents damaging poles, power outages, and even vandalism or criminal activities.

Sometimes, the exact cause remains unknown, adding to the complexity of the situation.

Also Read: Houston’s Most Dangerous Roads and Intersections

Rules of the Road During Traffic Signal Malfunction

When faced with a malfunctioning traffic signal, the Rules of the Road remain in effect.

According to the Texas Transportation Code Sec. 544.008, if the light shows a flashing red signal, drivers must come to a stop at a clearly marked stop line or, in its absence, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection.

Proceeding is only allowed after yielding to cross traffic that doesn’t stop. On the other hand, a flashing yellow signal indicates that drivers may proceed through the intersection with caution.

It’s crucial for drivers to exercise caution when the color of the cross-traffic light is unclear.

Assuming right of way without ensuring the safety of the intersection could lead to a shared liability collision.

Dealing with Total Traffic Signal Blackout

In the event of a complete traffic signal blackout, treat the intersection as a four-way stop.

All drivers must bring their vehicles to a complete stop before the intersection.

Texas Transportation Code 544.010 emphasizes that drivers should stop at a clearly marked line or, in its absence, before the crosswalk.

If neither is present, stop as close as possible without obstructing the intersection, ensuring a clear view of oncoming traffic.

Determining the right of way at a four-way stop follows a simple rule: the first vehicle to arrive and stop has the right of way.

If multiple vehicles arrive simultaneously, the vehicle on the left must yield to the one on the right.

Navigating Larger Intersections with Caution

In larger intersections where multiple lanes and turns complicate the situation, extreme caution is essential.

Paying attention to traffic patterns that may mimic the traffic signal’s usual flow can guide drivers on when it’s their turn to move forward or turn.

Understanding Right-of-Way Rules

Right-of-way rules, rooted in common sense and caution, are crucial in navigating intersections, especially during malfunctions. Key points to remember include:

  1. “T” Intersections: Yield to through traffic first before making a turn.
  2. Uncontrolled Intersections: If traffic signals are malfunctioning or absent, yield to vehicles that arrived before you. If two vehicles arrive simultaneously, yield to the one on your right.

Despite the simplicity of right-of-way rules, confusion may arise, particularly among new or inexperienced drivers. The core principle is to yield to avoid collisions.

Also Read: Common Bad Driving Habits Behind Car Accidents in Houston

Liability Considerations for Drivers and Government Entities

Accidents resulting from malfunctioning traffic signal lights often lead to disputes over liability.

It’s essential to understand that violation of Rules of the Road can be a basis for negligence claims.

However, proving which driver failed to follow the rules can be challenging, often relying on independent eyewitnesses.

Blaming the government for malfunctioning traffic lights is equally intricate.

Governmental entities enjoy immunity from certain liabilities, and proving their liability requires demonstrating their awareness of the malfunction and failure to take reasonable corrective measures.

Post-Accident Protocols

In the aftermath of an accident caused by a malfunctioning traffic signal, it’s crucial to get the malfunction investigated.

Clearly communicate to law enforcement that you followed the rules, and the other party did not.

Refrain from providing statements to insurance adjusters without legal counsel to avoid potential pitfalls.

By ensuring accurate information in the police report and steering clear of blaming signal failures, you strengthen your position in any ensuing legal proceedings.

Malfunctioning Traffic Control Device Checklist

Do’s:

Call the police: In the event of an accident caused by a malfunctioning traffic control device, immediately call the police to investigate, document the malfunction, and determine its cause. A police report is crucial for establishing the details of the incident.

Report to the city: Notify the relevant city authorities about the malfunction. This ensures that responsible entities are aware of the issue and can take corrective measures.

Explain adherence to Rules of the Road: When speaking with the police officer, clearly communicate the actions you took to follow the Rules of the Road during the malfunction. Provide a detailed account of your responsible driving behavior.

Highlight the other driver’s actions: Share with the police officer how the other driver failed to follow the Rules of the Road during the malfunction. Providing this information contributes to establishing liability in the incident.

Consult with a car accident lawyer: Seek legal counsel from a car accident lawyer who specializes in handling cases involving malfunctioning traffic control devices. A lawyer can provide valuable guidance and ensure your rights are protected.

Don’ts:

Blame the traffic signal: Avoid attributing the accident solely to the malfunctioning traffic signal. While it may have contributed, focusing on other factors strengthens your position in legal proceedings.

Give statements to adjusters: Refrain from providing statements to adjusters from any involved party without consulting your car accident lawyer. Adjusters may try to elicit statements that could be detrimental to your case.

By following these do’s and don’ts, you can navigate the aftermath of an accident caused by a malfunctioning traffic control device in a way that maximizes your legal protection and ensures a thorough investigation of the incident.Top of Form

Conclusion

In conclusion, responding to malfunctioning traffic signals requires a combination of adherence to established rules, cautious navigation, and a clear understanding of right-of-way principles.

By prioritizing safety and following these guidelines, drivers can contribute to reducing the risks associated with malfunctioning traffic signals on our roadways.

FAQs

What causes traffic light malfunctions?

Traffic light malfunctions can be attributed to various factors, including natural elements like lightning and high winds, wear and tear of equipment, car accidents damaging poles, power outages, and even vandalism or criminal activities. In some instances, the precise cause may remain unknown.

How should drivers respond to a malfunctioning traffic signal?

According to the Texas Transportation Code Sec. 544.008, if the light shows a flashing red signal, drivers must come to a stop at a clearly marked stop line or, in its absence, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection. Proceeding is only allowed after yielding to cross traffic that doesn’t stop. A flashing yellow signal indicates that drivers may proceed through the intersection with caution.

What should drivers do in the event of a total traffic signal blackout?

In the case of a total traffic signal blackout, drivers should treat the intersection as a four-way stop. All drivers must come to a complete stop before the intersection, following the rules outlined in Texas Transportation Code 544.010. This includes stopping at a clearly marked line or, in its absence, before the crosswalk.

How is right of way determined at a four-way stop?

The general rule is that the first vehicle to arrive and stop at the intersection has the right of way. If multiple vehicles arrive simultaneously, the vehicle on the left must yield to the one on the right.

Can drivers be held liable for accidents caused by malfunctioning traffic signal lights?

Yes, drivers can be held liable if they fail to follow the Rules of the Road during a traffic signal malfunction. However, proving liability can be challenging, often requiring independent eyewitnesses to corroborate the events.

Can the government be held responsible for accidents caused by malfunctioning traffic lights?

Proving government liability is difficult, as governmental entities often enjoy immunity from certain liabilities. They can only be held liable if they are aware of a malfunction and fail to take reasonable steps to correct it. Blaming a malfunctioning traffic signal for an accident is generally not straightforward in legal proceedings.

What should drivers do after an accident caused by a malfunctioning traffic control device?

It’s crucial to get the cause of the malfunction investigated. Clearly communicate to law enforcement that you followed the rules, and the other party did not. Refrain from providing statements to insurance adjusters without legal counsel to avoid potential pitfalls. Ensuring accurate information in the police report and avoiding blaming signal failures will strengthen your position in any ensuing legal proceedings.

About the Author

Crystal Henry, a highly respected and compassionate personal injury lawyer based in Houston, is a force to be reckoned with in the legal field. With years of experience and a genuine passion for helping others, Crystal has become a trusted advocate for her clients. Her journey in law began with a strong desire to make a positive impact on people’s lives during their most challenging times.