Traffic Lights With No Power - What's The Rule?

Professional driving instructor Michael Mercadante reviews how state law guides you safely through an intersection when the traffic light is out.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there are still a number of towns in our area without power.  No power in homes and businesses can also mean no power for traffic lights.

What are you supposed to do when you approach a traffic light that's out?  The answer is, treat it like a four-way stop.  Come to a complete stop, and yield the right-of-way to drivers on your right.  If the right is clear, continue carefully through the intersection.

It's been obvious over the past two days that not everyone is aware of this law, or a great many local motorists are choosing to ignore it.  Driving is like playing Monopoly - if we all follow the rules, we all have fun and no one gets hurt.

Stay safe out there - with some communities reporting that power won't be restored until the middle of next week, you're bound to come across traffic lights with no power at some point.

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An interested bystander November 02, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Here's the rule - Don't be an ass. Driving while the power is out means taking your time. So take it already so all of us can get where we need to be without having to worry about some moron blowing through a dead light because he thinks he has the right of way.
NY Dumpster Diver November 02, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Just treat it like the gas pumps. Get there first and pull a gun if you have to. Do you guys have any good looting spot in your area?
andthatsthetruth November 02, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Nice of you to bring up the scenario. KYW has been saying what is to happen for at least a day. prior to that, we all were dealing with the streets that had stop signs that they were not to go forward until clear. Ambler has the main drag set up that way. Only no one is stopping or heeding to what has been instructed to do. I was always told that Butler has the right of way, side streets are secondary, since notice has been taken, this is not happening. Hopefully, we won't have to deal much longer.
Beth November 03, 2012 at 12:23 PM
I have actually been impressed with how curteous people have been with this situation. Everyone (ive seen) is taking a turn-like a 4 way stop.
Lyle Richardson November 04, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Beth you are lucky I drive 10 hours a day and ive seen so many that just plow through the intersections. Last week alone i have been almost hit at least 10 times by someone not even stopping at the intersections.
Mary Anne Looby November 04, 2012 at 04:30 PM
I was taught this way. Four way stop, or non functioning traffic light.....RIGHT is RIGHT. You can't go wrong if you remember that. Drivers teach your kids!
Meta November 04, 2012 at 05:55 PM
It is confusing when side streets have temporary stop signs placed on them and no signs on the main road.
Mrs. B November 04, 2012 at 06:31 PM
sad part about this article is the morons who don't know the rule or choose to ignore it or choose not to ask for clarity on it are the ones who are gonna choose to ignore this article as well.....
Susan H. November 05, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Common sense - courtesy and focus. Just like at a 4-way stop sign. Easy breezy people, comeon!!
andthatsthetruth November 07, 2012 at 01:48 AM
You aren't getting this - no signs on Main Street , Cross streets have stop signs on the corners. The Stop sign people aren't stopping.
mr grinch November 07, 2012 at 12:16 PM
This version of the rule is incorrect. The rule may be found here: http://www.dmv.state.pa.us/pdotforms/pa_driversmanual/chapter_2.pdf
Michael Mercadante November 15, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Mr. Grinch, The link you provided is to the online version of the PA Driver's Manual, and it says exactly the same thing my article does: "A non-functioning traffic signal should be treated as though it were a four-way STOP sign."


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