What to Do at Stoplights

It’s easy to know what to do when you come to a traffic signal that is functioning normally, but what about times where the lights are blinking, it’s not working at all or there is a police officer directing traffic.Those are all situations you will encounter at some point while driving. In less populated areas it’s common to see stoplights switch to blinking lights at night. With spring come heavy storms that can knock out power causing traffic signals to stop functioning entirely until power can be restored. And in heavily trafficked areas, such as downtown Chicago, you’ll see police officers directing traffic during rush hour where there are traffic signals. Here’s our handy guide on how to handle each of those stoplight situations.

Stoplight is Blinking Red and Yellow

Suppose you are traveling down a road that you know well. Up ahead you know there is a stoplight. As you approach it, you notice that the side facing you is flashing the red light. In this case, the proper thing to do is come to a complete stop just as you would if this was a stop sign. Check in both directions for oncoming traffic, and then proceed. If there is another car stopped in the opposite direction, the one that arrived first has the right of way. If both arrived at the same time and one is making a left turn. The car going straight or turning right has the right of way.

Now, imagine that you are in the same situation. The only difference is that as you approach the intersection you notice that the yellow light is blinking. In this instance you would have the right of way and this should be treated like a yield sign. You will want to slow slightly and watch for inattentive drivers at the cross street, but you do not need to stop. If you are turning left at the intersection, wait for the oncoming traffic to pass and then proceed.

Stoplight Has No Lights

You are driving down the same road. As you approach the intersection you notice that the stoplight is not working at all. In this case you would come to a complete stop no matter what direction you are traveling. A broken traffic light is treated just as you would a four-way stop intersection. The car that arrives at the intersection proceeds first. If more than one car stops at the same time, the vehicle on the right has the right of way.

Police Are Directing Traffic at a Stoplight

You are driving down the same road. This time as you approach the intersection you notice a police officer directing traffic in the intersection. The stoplight may or may not be working, depending on the situation. In this situation the driver should follow the officers instructions even if they signal you to go when the light is red. In this case their instructions supersede the spotlight. Proceed slowly and be aware of the location of the officer. They are risking their life standing in traffic to help you get where you are going.

To learn more about how to handle stoplights and to get hands on experience sign up for one of our online refresher courses. Being a safe driver is the job of everyone that gets behind the wheel of a car.

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