According to Dr. Brad Bradshaw of the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association, a national organization representing the nation's driver education teachers, in the event of traffic light failure, drivers should revert to right-of-way guidelines.
Laws vary by state, said Bradshaw, but generally speaking, right of way states the following:
In the case of a cross street ('X') intersection, the general rule is first person in, first person out.
When two vehicles approaching the intersection at perpendicular angles arrive at approximately the same time, the driver on the left yields to the driver on the right.
When two vehicles approach head-on, a different right-of-way rule comes into play: the person turning left must yield to oncoming traffic.
'Communication is key,' said Bradshaw. 'If you go charging [into the intersection], then a catastrophe's going to happen.'
Bradshaw's advice for safely reaching your destination in the event of a traffic light malfunction is as follows:
- Slow down as you approach the intersection.
- Stop if there are other cars at the intersection.
- Communicate with the drivers of the other vehicles, using the car lights, horn or 'polite' hand gestures.
Bradshaw said drivers who travel the same roads regularly would notice a defunct traffic light and react appropriately. 'In general, whenever there is a change in condition, people tend to exercise more caution,' he said.
Contact: Dr. Brad Bradshaw, American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association, Indiana, Pa., 800-896-7703; fax: 724-357-7595; web site: www.adtsea.iup.edu/adtsea.
Background: Jerry Deffenbacher, psychology professor and developer of animated road-design software that tests traffic patterns? potential for creating road rage, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colo., 970-491-6432.
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