Stopping at dark intersections
When power outages occur and traffic signals fail, I've often urged drivers to treat darkened intersections as all-way stops. Now, I see John B. Townsend II at AAA Mid-Atlantic is noting that Maryland has no law requiring that.
Oh, swell. Have I been telling people the wrong thing?
No, says Buel C. Young, a spokesman for the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration. "That's what we recommend." In fact, a list of driving tips that the agency put out Monday included this: "When a traffic light is malfunctioning or not working, you should treat this intersection as a four-way stop sign. Come to a complete stop and yield to all other traffic, then proceed when the way is clear."
Still, there's no Maryland law requiring drivers to do so. That was the point of Townsend's statement. He noted that Del. Saqib Ali, who represents District 39 in Montgomery County, has proposed the Malfunctioning Traffic Light Act (pdf) for the past three General Assembly sessions. If passed, the bill would require drivers to reduce speed and prepare to yield to other vehicles when approaching an intersection with a darkened traffic signal.
"It is imperative that motorists treat intersections with a malfunctioning traffic signal as a four-way stop," Townsend said. But it's not illegal in Maryland to ignore that very common bit of traffic etiquette.
Aside from the logic of following that guidance, Townsend said a driver who ignores it could still wind up in court. The standard for determining legal duty, known as "reasonable care," is elevated when approaching an intersection with a dark signal, he said.
Young, at the MVA, and I agreed on our other most frequently mentioned driver concern after bad weather: Headlights should be turned on when you're using your windshield wipers. "And that is the law," he said.
| July 28, 2010; 3:05 PM ET
Categories: Driving, Maryland | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, travel tips
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