New law: Dead traffic lights must be treated as a four-way stop in Michigan

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LANSING (WJRT) - (04/24/2018) - A longstanding practice in Michigan is now law.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed a bill Tuesday requiring drivers to treat an intersection with a dead of malfunctioning traffic signal as a four-way stop.

Police have advised motorists to follow that practice for years and many people learned about it in driver's training. But until Tuesday there was no specific law in Michigan about what happens when a traffic light wasn't working.

“Clarifying this law will not only reduce the number of accidents during these power outages, but it will also keep Michiganders consistent with what is taught during driver’s training,” Calley said.

State Sen. Rick Jones, a Republican from Grand Ledge, drafted the bill that clarified the law. He hopes it makes roads safer during power outages.

“It can be dangerous if two drivers have different expectations when approaching an intersection where the traffic light is out," Jones said in a statement issued Tuesday. "If one driver thinks everyone is stopping and another driver thinks he has the right of way, that’s a recipe for disaster.”

The new law will not apply to traffic lights that are only active during certain periods, such as signals outside of a school or a fire department.

“Most drivers already believe that treating an intersection with a nonworking traffic signal as a four-way stop is the law, and with this reform, it now will be,” Jones said. “This will end the confusion in Michigan’s law and ensure that all drivers in our state are on the same page when approaching an intersection with a nonworking traffic light."

Drivers who approach a regular four-way stop or one at a malfunctioning traffic light need to remember the rules.

The driver who arrives first, should proceed first.

"The issue is what happens when two vehicles get there at about the same time, alright. When that happens the vehicle on the right is supposed to have the right-of-way, the one on the left is supposed to yield it, alright. If we follow that simple direction, it'll work," said Lt. Mike Gomez with the Saginaw County Sheriff's Office. "If all else fails, you go back to the vehicle on the right."

Click on the 'Related Link' with this story to read the law in the Michigan Vehicle Code.

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