Intersection Etiquette: What to Do When Traffic Lights Go Out

traffic light going green for go

If a traffic light is broken, what should a driver do? A malfunctioning traffic light can wreak havoc on daily commuters just trying to get home. Traffic light outages can be due to inclement weather, a car accident, or a mechanical malfunction. In the event that you approach a traffic light that is out, it’s important to know what to do for your safety and those around you. 

If a traffic accident occurs due to a traffic light being out, call Hoffman Law Firm and let us handle the insurance company, so you don’t have to worry about it. Simply, contact us!

Key Takeaways

  • When facing a malfunctioning traffic light with flashing red, treat it as a 4-way stop, giving way to the right and being cautious with pedestrians.
  • Approach flashing yellow lights with care, ensuring the way is clear before proceeding.
  • At intersection with no lights functioning, treat it as a 4-way stop, taking your time, yielding to the right, and following safety measures for everyone’s well-being.

What to Do If a Traffic Light is Broken (or Malfunctioning)?


When you approach an intersection that is experiencing a traffic light outage and the lights are flashing red, first come to a complete stop as you would at a working red light.

Secondly, if another vehicle approaches at the same time, treat the intersection as a 4-way stop and let the vehicle to the right go first.

As usual, drivers turning left must yield to the driver going straight, and all drivers must yield to pedestrians. Thirdly, always approach the middle of the intersection with caution to ensure other vehicles are following proper rules.


If a traffic light is broken and flashing yellow, the rules for drivers slightly change. First, when entering an intersection with a flashing yellow traffic light, approach with caution, monitor other drivers, ensure there is not a pedestrian entering the crosswalk, then safely proceed through the intersection. 


If you approach an intersection where the lights have gone out completely, treat the intersection as a four-way stop and always proceed with caution.

Upholding the Rule of Law for Intersection Safety

When the traffic lights go dark and stop functioning, it’s crucial to stick to the rule of law to ensure safety at intersections. This might sound a bit technical, but it’s basically about how we should behave when the traffic lights are broken. Instead of just driving through, there’s a specific way to handle things that helps prevent accidents.

Treating It Like a Four-Way Stop

Imagine you’re driving towards an intersection and the traffic lights aren’t working. If there are stop signs for all the directions, then you should treat it like a four-way stop. This means that the first car to arrive at the intersection gets to go first, and then the car on its right goes next. If two cars get there at the same time, the car on the right has to let the car on the left go first.

Dealing with a Three-Way Stop

Now, let’s say one road at the intersection doesn’t have a stop sign, but the others do. In this case, it’s like a three-way stop. The cars with the stop signs are the ones that get to move first, and they go in the order they arrived. If a bunch of cars all reach their stop signs at once, remember the rule about giving way to the car on the right.

So, even though it might seem a bit confusing, following these rules when the traffic lights fail helps us keep things safe and fair on the road.

How to Stay Safe 

When driving through an intersection without working traffic lights, the number one priority is for you to stay safe. Always take your time and never rush or speed through the intersection. Give yourself time to assess the situation, especially during times of inclement weather when visibility may not be ideal.

Remain calm, courteous, and patient, and always check for pedestrians or road crews who may be standing nearby. Safely navigate the intersection by yielding to the vehicle to the right, if more than one vehicle approaches the intersection at the same time. 

If there is an officer or traffic control person on the scene, follow the directions given at the intersection. Remember to drive cautiously and stay aware to help keep yourself, your passengers, and other drivers safe.

Need Legal Advice After a Charleston Car Accident, Reach Hoffman Law Firm!

Traffic lights guide everyday drivers through the roads in an orderly fashion. However, traffic lights can give out due to inclement weather and other factors, so it is important to know the rules of the road to stay safe in this situation. If you happen to be involved in a car accident due to faulty traffic lights, our personal injury lawyers will be glad to help. 

Located in Charleston, SC, we support accident victims throughout the Palmetto State. Our personal injury lawyers here at Hoffman Law Firm have extensive experience handling a wide variety of cases. 

Plus, you only pay us if we win your case.

We have established a reputation of proven results, as well as great service! To meet with a member of our team, schedule your free consultation today. Attorney David Hoffman and our legal team are here to help!

Our personal injury law firm offers trusted legal representation right here in the Lowcountry, including these practice areas: 

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