What should drivers do when a traffic signal is flashing or all lights are dark?

When a traffic signal malfunctions but still has power, it will often revert to an all-red flashing mode. When you approach a signal light that is flashing red, you must come to a complete stop (Mn Statute 169.06, Subd. 7). Sometimes the traffic signal will flash red in all directions, making the intersection operate like a four-way stop. At some intersections, the lights may flash yellow for the main roadway, thus making the intersection function like a two-way stop. Always stop at a traffic signal that is flashing red, and be sure it is safe before entering the intersection as the cross traffic may not be required to stop. If you approach a flashing yellow light, you do not need to come to a complete stop. However, be alert for drivers entering the intersection and proceed with caution.

Signals that are in flashing mode can return to normal operation at any time and without warning, even when repair workers are not present. The flashing red may change to a solid red, and drivers often fail to notice the difference, running the red light. Proceeding on a solid red light is always illegal and can lead to a crash. Be alert, and make sure that the light is still flashing and that it is safe to proceed before entering the intersection.

During severe weather season, it is not unusual to have power outages due to high wind or lightning strikes. Traffic signals throughout the city rely on electricity to function. If a traffic signal is in an area of a power outage, it will go dark with no light operation.

If you approach a traffic signal without power, remember that the rules of right-of-way still apply. You should:

  • Slow down and prepare to stop.
  • Determine who has right-of-way to proceed through the intersection.

If there is a lot of traffic at the intersection, it will naturally begin to function as a four-way stop. Remember that vehicles have right-of-way in the order in which they arrive regardless of which road they arrive from. If two vehicles arrive at the intersection at approximately the same time, the vehicle on the left must yield to the vehicle on the right, and left turns must yield to oncoming traffic.

Always assume that other drivers may react unpredictably or that they may not even slow down when driving through an uncontrolled intersection. Drive defensively, even if it means waiting beyond "your turn" to proceed through the intersection safely.

To report a signal malfunction, call the Washington County Sheriff's Office dispatcher at 651-439-9381. If it is an emergency, call 911.

Show All Answers

1. How do traffic signals work?
2. How much do traffic signals cost?
3. Will a traffic signal make an intersection safer?
4. How does the City decide where to install signals?
5. Why is the "Walk" light so short? I can only get halfway across before it starts flashing.
6. Why can't the signals be timed together to reduce delay?
7. What should drivers do when a traffic signal is flashing or all lights are dark?
8. How should drivers respond to a flashing yellow arrow?
9. Which government agency owns which traffic signals?