traffic lights out

(credit: Jon Hewett/WWJ) FILE

New Law Clarifies: Out Traffic Lights Should Be Treated As 4-Way Stops

It's been the subject of debate

April 24, 2018 - 12:08 pm

LANSING (WWJ) - It's been the subject of debate, but a bill just signed into law in Michigan clears up questions regarding what to do when a traffic signal loses power.

The definitive answer? Treat each intersection as a four-way stop.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley on Tuesday signed legislation clarifying that malfunctioning traffic signals are, in fact, to be treated as four-way stops. The purpose of the law, according to state officials, is to clarify intersection traffic flow procedures and prevent crashes. 

Senate Bill 521, sponsored by state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, is now Public Act 109 of 2018.

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

Gov. Rick Snyder is on a trade mission to Germany, and Article V Section 26 of the Michigan Constitution gives authority to the lieutenant governor to sign legislation when the governor is out of state.           

The rules of a four-way stop are as follows: All vehicles must come to a complete stop when reaching the intersection. If yours is the only vehicle at the stop, then you have the right of way and are free to go. If there are other vehicles at the stop, each may continue in the same order in which they arrived, the same way they would at stop sign. If two vehicles reach the intersection at about the same time, the vehicle on the left must yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right. 

This development comes a little more than a year after Michigan State Police raised some eyebrows when they put out a tweet saying just the opposite.

Amid power outages due to high winds in March of 2017, MSP instructed drivers that an intersection without power is "never a four-way stop" -- unless temporary signage has been posted.

Instead, when a signal loses power, police at the time said the intersection becomes uncontrolled and reverts back to the "basic right of way" requirements. This would mean the driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection should yield the right of way to a vehicle that already entered the intersection from a different direction; and when vehicles enter an intersection at about the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left must yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right. 

The biggest difference: Not everyone would be required to stop. 

WWJ Newsradio 950 has a call out to MSP for comment on the change in the law.