When The Lights Go Out

Ten things to do when approaching broken traffic lights. 

Traffic lights. Often seen as just another hazard on our roads and often seen as something that stops our progress. Or are they? Their designed to regulate traffic at the busiest of junctions, keeping traffic flowing and everyone safe. Contact between vehicles and pedestrians are reduces as each will take it in turn to use or cross the road. Some may say that some lights causes congestion, specially during peak hours. Some motorists even treat them as a challenge - speeding up to pass the lights before they go red (and not able to stop when they do go red)

But what happens when the lights go out? What happens at those busy junctions? How does one need to approach and navigate the hazard when its not clear who has right of way?

The answer is simple.  Approach with causing.  Slow down and prepare to stop. Take on extra observations all around. Even obtain eye contact with other drivers where possible. Here are xx things you need to do when the lights are faulty.

  1. Don panic. This could introduce hesitation and that may lead to other drivers becoming frustrated and take on manoeuvres that could lead to an incident. 
  2. Slow down early. This will give you extra time to take in what's around you, including mirror checks for cyclist and motorbikes. 
  3. Try to obtain eye contact with other drivers. Not always possible, but obtains eye contact can give you extra information on the intention of what the other driver.  
  4. Be decisive. By making a positive decision, to either stop or go. Means that you'll be helping traffic make safe progress through the junction.
  5. Don't flash your lights. If you do let the other driver(s) go, don't flash your lights to suggest its OK to go. Let the other driver make their decision on what they can see. If you do flash you lights and an accident occurs, it may be you that's caught up with insurance claims and blames. (Plus the flashing of lights would only be used to let other drivers know you are there.)
  6. Look out for pedestrians. They may be less aware of the lights not working and less aware on how the traffic pattern at the junction is forming. Pedestrians may simple walk right in front of you.
  7. Take an assessment of the traffic pattern. It may be that a pattern forms where a number of cars work they way through, then its given way of another traffic approach for a period of time, then another approach is given a go. 
  8. Be patent, especially if Turning right for example. You may need to wait a bit for on coming traffic to clear or give way before you can continue.
  9. Say thanks. A little curtesy will go a long way and help reduce any road rage incident.
  10. Don't speed away. No need to speed off when the coast is clear. its worth keeping eyes peeled just in case a secondary hazard appears from no where.  

It may appear on some occasions that traffic flows better then when the lights were working. But that won't be the case if an accident occurs. Thankfully technology at traffic lights have become much more reliable. Traffic lights out are few and far between. But when it does happen, your'll be ready to take on the hazard safely in the future.

This post was written by Graham Aylard-Poxon, Advanced Motorists, National Observer


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