How to safely navigate intersections controlled by traffic lights is one of the first things we learn as new drivers. Green, yellow, and red—these colors are indispensable cues that tell us when to stop and when to proceed with caution.
But what happens when the device designed to keep us safe doesn’t work like it’s supposed to?
Can a car accident happen due to a malfunctioning traffic light? The answer is yes—crashes can and do happen as a result of a broken traffic signal.
- Malfunctioning traffic lights can cause serious car accidents.
- Lexington depends heavily on traffic lights, and a storm in March showed us the dangers created by traffic signal outages.
- There are steps you should take if you see a broken traffic light.
- If you were injured in a crash caused by a malfunctioning signal, you may have the right to pursue compensation.
Why Are Malfunctioning Traffic Lights Dangerous?
A traffic signal malfunction may be caused by a maintenance issue, power outage, inclement weather, vandalism, electrical failure, crash-impacting light hardware, or other reasons. Broken traffic signal accidents are relatively rare, but can cause serious harm when they happen.
Malfunctioning traffic lights are dangerous because they result in confusion among motorists and pedestrians navigating the intersection. Without the guidance of light signals, drivers don’t know who has the right of way, when to take a turn, and when it is safe to go forward. In short, a malfunctioning light wreaks havoc on the normal flow of traffic through an intersection.
These types of accidents are most likely to happen due to a broken traffic light:
- T-bone crashes (side-impact collisions)
- Left-turn collisions
- Head-on crashes
- Rear-end accidents
- Pedestrian-struck-by-vehicle accidents
What To Do When Traffic Lights Are Out
Attentiveness and patience are critical when you encounter a malfunctioning traffic light. It’s not only imperative that you do your own part to act safely and avoid a collision. You also need to be wary of the actions of other drivers who may not be as cautious, and who may be reckless, confused, or distracted and not notice the malfunction.
When you come upon a broken traffic signal, remember to follow these steps:
- Come to a complete stop.
- Pay attention, proceed slowly, and allow other motorists to clear the intersection.
- Only proceed when the intersection is clear.
- If there are any traffic officers stationed at the intersection, follow their directions.
- If there is a flashing yellow light, you may proceed with caution.
- If there is a flashing red light, treat the intersection as a four-way stop. Come to a complete stop and allow moving motorists to pass before taking your turn.
Safely traveling through an intersection at a broken traffic signal demands your full attention. Never speed, text, or drive carelessly in a situation like this. The intersection is especially dangerous if lights are stuck on red or green, confusing multiple directions of traffic into thinking they have the right of way.
It is always better to be safe than sorry when malfunctioning traffic signals are concerned. Don’t assume you have the right of way, or that another driver will give you clearance to move first. Only drive with your full attention, allowing others to proceed first if they demand the right of way. Once you have cleared the hazardous area, get to your destination or pull over in a safe location and report the issue.
Lexington, Kentucky: A City That Depends on Traffic Lights
Like most U.S. cities, Lexington was designed and continues to be a city most friendly to car travel. The very infrastructure of our downtown and neighborhoods relies heavily on traffic lights to keep the flow of vehicles steady and free from collisions.
In March of this year, a major storm resulted in a power outage that knocked out traffic lights at about 20 Lexington intersections, including at the intersection of Tates Creek and Armstrong Mill. An immediate response from the Lexington Police Department urged drivers to stay off the roads completely when possible, and only drive with extreme caution and attentiveness if need be.
How To Report a Traffic Light Outage in Lexington, KY
If you notice a malfunctioning traffic light, we encourage you to report it right away. This can help avert an accident. To report a broken traffic signal in Lexington, KY:
- Dial 311 to contact LexCall, the city’s centralized service and information call center
- Submit an online LexCall 311 service request form
- Contact the Lexington Department of Traffic Engineering at (859) 425-2255 (Monday – Friday: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.)
- Dial 911 in an emergency situation
Traffic lights aren’t just essential to motorist safety, but also to pedestrian safety. As the home of the University of Kentucky’s main campus, we have over 30,000 students who get around on foot on a daily basis—not to mention the thousands of other year-round Lexington residents who regularly walk for transportation, leisure, or exercise.
Be Careful When Navigating the New HAWK Devices Near UK Campus
In recent news, a new traffic control device known as HAWK—a device using the High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk system—was installed near the University of Kentucky campus at South Limestone and Pine Street.
The new traffic control signal went live on June 1 of this year, and many drivers are still adjusting to the way this system works. Different from other types of vehicle control signals, a HAWK device only activates when it senses a pedestrian about to cross the road.
When the device is activated, you (as a driver) will see a flashing yellow light followed by a solid, sustained yellow light, and finally a red light. Be alert to these indicators that you should stop and allow pedestrians to safely cross before proceeding. Once the pedestrian has safely crossed, the solid red light will begin flashing, indicating you may move forward with care.
City officials are optimistic that the HAWK device will improve pedestrian safety in the city. Scott Thompson, Senior Transportation Planner in the Lexington Area, has stated that installing these types of devices can reduce “pedestrian crashes by 55% and crashes that result in serious injury or fatality by 15%.”
What To Do After a Broken Traffic Light Car Accident in Lexington
If you were involved in a car accident that happened due to a malfunctioning traffic light, first treat it as you would any other type of auto collision:
- Get to safety
- Call 911
- Take pictures of the accident scene
- Obtain a copy of the police report
- Exchange information with other involved parties
- Seek medical attention
- Follow all doctor instructions for recovery
- Contact a Lexington car accident attorney
Following these steps will help protect your health and legal rights. Handling broken traffic light accidents can be complicated from a legal standpoint, so the more evidence of the crash and your injuries you can gather, the better. Your attorney will need to investigate the case to determine if one or more parties were negligent and contributed to the accident’s cause, such as:
- Other drivers
- A government entity
- A maintenance or installation company
- A manufacturing company
- A vandal who caused deliberate harm to the device
- Another third-party entity
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may or may not have the right to pursue damages from another party’s insurance company. At Golden Law Office, we guide our clients in filing claims with their own and other insurance companies to ensure they recover the highest value their case deserves, even taking cases to court when necessary.
Contact our team to learn more about what to do in your case. A car accident can certainly happen due to a malfunctioning traffic light. And if it does, we are ready to help.
Golden Law is a local, Kentucky Law Firm, attorneys/lawyers in Fayette County, Kentucky, working in the fields of personal injury, auto accidents, car and truck wrecks; medical malpractice: doctors, hospitals & nursing homes; senior living abuse: neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, dehydration, bedsores, catastrophic injuries, and broken bones. If you are considering a lawsuit, call us at 859.469.5000 for a free consultation. We are located at 771 Corporate Dr. Suite 800/ Lexington, Kentucky 40503. We handle cases all over the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We have represented and trained people in major insurance companies & major trucking companies. We have first hand experience and know the ‘inside of the insurance business’ … that’s a distinction that no other law firm can make. We’re Your Advocate. Dale Golden, Laraclay Parker.