What state law says about malfunctioning red lights

Stopping at a red light that will not change to green can be a frustrating and puzzling experience. If you decide the light is broken and proceed anyway, do you run the risk of colliding with another vehicle? Pennsylvania law explains what drivers in this situation are allowed to do. Though some caution is involved, it is possible to proceed through an intersection if a signal light is stuck on red.

According to state law, a traffic control signal under normal circumstances would change colors due to inductive loop sensors or with the use of automated technology that senses the presence of a vehicle at an intersection. However, some malfunctioning lights stay red, green or yellow. If drivers end up in this situation, state law describes actions that can be taken.

If the light is green or yellow, vehicles facing the intersection are granted the right to proceed, though motorists must be cautious while doing so. In the event traffic is stuck at a malfunctioning red light or if the traffic signal is completely dark, drivers are to treat the signal as a stop sign. Proceeding through the intersection is dependent on the same rules that govern an intersection with stop signs.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation website cautions that the law does not state exactly how long you have to wait before determining that a red light is malfunctioning. Basically, common sense should govern the decisions of motorists. A totally dark traffic signal is an obvious sign of a problem. Generally, it is a good bet a light is malfunctioning if a red light lasts for far longer than is reasonable without turning green.

Traffic light malfunctions are a problem many motorists are bound to face, so drive carefully and use sound judgment if you encounter a light that is not working properly.