While driving in the mini-hurricane and power outages of Saturday, September 27, 2014, in Phoenix, Arizona, I noticed that many drivers either don't know or don't care about what they are supposed to do while approaching an inoperative traffic light. Or, maybe people in Phoenix just panic when it rains. I saw many near misses and one actual car crash. Some drivers don't stop at all somehow thinking that the fact that the light is out gives them the right of way. Other drivers try to cheat and sneak through behind the vehicle in front of them without stopping.
The answer is really simple - when the traffic signal is out, just treat it like a four-way stop. Everybody must stop before entering the intersection and you yield to the vehicle on the right. There is even an Arizona Statute on this, ARS 28-645, which reads:
C. The driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection that has an official traffic control signal that is inoperative shall bring the vehicle to a complete stop before entering the intersection and may proceed with caution only when it is safe to do so. If two or more vehicles approach an intersection from different streets or highways at approximately the same time and the official traffic control signal for the intersection s inoperative, the driver of each vehicle shall bring the vehicle to a complete stop before entering the intersection and the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the driver of the vehicle on the right.
Jay Ciulla is a Phoenix personal injury and wrongful death attorney.