As much as they may annoy us and seemingly slow down our journeys, traffic lights are in place for good reason. The red light actually helps us steer clear of long traffic queues and aid us on busy dual carriageways and roundabouts. Sometimes however, these lights can malfunction, causing a significant danger to road users – in such situations, it’s important that drivers know how to react and deal with the situation calmly.
Data shows that this situation is more common than people think – in Merseyside alone there were 120 road accidents caused from 2010-2016 as a direct result of faulty lights. In Surrey, this number was even higher, with 140 accidents caused. A traffic light can fail for a number of reasons, but most broken lights stem from a faulty electric connection. This article aims to explore what drivers should do if they encounter a broken traffic signal, so that they can make informed, safe and smart decisions if the situation ever arises.
If you are driving and realise that you are approaching a faulty light, the best thing to do is to bring the car to a stop and treat it as though you are approaching a red light. Then, it’s important to follow the right-of-way laws. The Highway Code states that you should treat the situation in the same way you would an unmarked junction and proceed with great care. The will help to ensure both you and your fellow road users can carry on your journeys safely.
Using your common sense in a situation like this is key. In an article on the BBC, Vince Yearly of the Institute of Advanced Motorists said: “It’s a tricky one because the absolute copper-bottom rule is that the red light must be obeyed. However, if you’ve been sitting there for a few minutes and it’s become fairly obvious the lights aren’t changing then you’ve got to reconsider.
“So, if you can see ahead of you quite clearly and ideally see the other set of lights or the back of them, I would lower my window a little to hear if there’s anything moving in your vicinity. Then put your lights on and very tentatively and cautiously start to make your way forward.”
Although Yearly does admit that his answer isn’t scientific, it has been advised that you should wait for at least four minutes before deciding to move on.
Who to contact
As soon as you have a safe opportunity, it’s important to contact the local authorities to report the broken traffic signal. The reason these signals are in place are to stop traffic where it may not have originally stopped, so if they aren’t working, chances are that people won’t stop. This can be extremely dangerous, so it’s important that the those who take care of the roads know about any issues. You can contact your local authorities to inform them about your discovering by telephone or online alternatives.
Malfunctioning traffic lights not only slow down our journeys, they also represent a significant danger to all drivers, leading to increased risk of accident and traffic build up. With so many cars on the roads nowadays, it’s best to report problems as soon as you can – following these steps will help to limit any disruption and keep you safe on your journeys.