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traffic light The North Carolina Department of Transportation just began a statewide change to how traffic lights respond to malfunctions at intersections across North Carolina. Previously, traffic lights that were inoperative or re-initiating following power outages would show a flashing yellow signal for the higher volume roadway at an intersection, and a flashing red only on the lower volume side-street.

There were two problems with the previous approach. First, many drivers treated the flashing yellow signal as a meaningless warning, a suggestion merely to be cautious or perhaps slow down a bit before entering the intersection. These drivers often entered the intersection at full speed. At the same time, drivers on the side street would come to a stop at flashing red signal, and assume that the drivers on the crossroad would also be commanded to stop by a flashing red signal. Assuming they were governed by a four way stop, drivers would stop briefly for the flashing red light, and then proceed directly into the path of the driver facing the flashing yellow. There have been numerous severe collisions due to the conflicting signals at these intersections.

After the change, all drivers at these intersections will see a flashing red signal. This will alert drivers to treat the intersection as a four-way stop, thereby eliminating confusion and significant crash risks. According to NCDOT Signals Engineer Nick Zinser, “We are making this change to improve the safety of our intersections and provide a consistent display when the signal is not operating normally. If a signal is in flashing mode or dark due to power loss, it becomes an all-way stop condition for vehicles and pedestrians.”

The Department of Transportation maintains more than 9,000 intersections controlled by traffic signal lights across the state. The NCDOT will complete this change over the course of the next year as part of the preventative maintenance it already conducts on all traffic signals.

Collisions caused by drivers disregarding traffic signals are among the three leading causes of intersection crashes, along with distracted driving and failure to yield. The NCDOT has committed to the recent change with the hope that a consistent approach to signaling drivers when traffic lights malfunction will dramatically increase roadway safety across our state.

If you have suffered an injury from an auto accident, contact Nagle & Associates right away, our Raleigh car accident lawyer can help you!