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Some traffic signals are dark

Airports | Amtrak | Buses | Capital Weather Gang | D.C. snow emergency | Plowing plans | Rails | Snow removal | Live traffic
Power outages across the D.C. region are creating problems with traffic signals.

There is very little traffic on the streets, but the problem is the roads are so slick that it's difficult to slow or stop once you've entered an intersection. So to avoid an unhappy encounter with an oncoming vehicle, do what doesn't come naturally to Washington area drivers: Slow down and stop at these intersections.

Treat any intersection where the traffic signals have been knocked out as a four-way stop. It doesn't matter if there's more traffic going your way, or if your street has more lanes than the intersecting street and it doesn't matter if you've got momentum on your side. It's still a four-way stop.

The vehicle on the right normally has the right of way, but don't take that as a given in any particular encounter. Try to make eye contact with the other driver or exchange visual signals -- polite visual signals -- about who should proceed first.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 6, 2010; 4:26 PM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Safety , Weather  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, snowstorm, tips for travelers  
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Next: Metro to close at 11 Saturday


Going back to Isabella in 2003, and continuing to the December blast and this storm why is it that Mont. Co. MD can't preemptively trim tree branches so we all don't have to go days without electricity. I realize this storm is huge in scope, but looking at the pepco map of outages it is disproportionately in Mont. Co. How about some tarp fund jobs for this?

Posted by: DontGetIt | February 6, 2010 8:40 PM | Report abuse

The county isn't responsible for trimming trees around electrical wires, PEPCO is. And when PEPCO does send its contractors out to do tree-trimming, people scream bloody murder because they don't want their trees trimmed. Until, of course, said trees touch the wires in a snow storm and cause a blackout. . .

Posted by: WashingtonDame | February 6, 2010 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Trees are people too.

Posted by: member8 | February 6, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse

They need to go back to incandescent bulbs. The LED lights don't produce enough heat to melt the snow and ice on them.

Posted by: cheno | February 6, 2010 10:59 PM | Report abuse

"The vehicle on the right normally has the right of way"

Not at a four-way stop (which is what a malfunctioning traffic light becomes.) Yield to traffic in the intersection (i.e., first come, first serve).

Posted by: washpost4 | February 7, 2010 12:18 AM | Report abuse

But if two people get to the intersection at exactly the same time on approaches at right angles to one another, the one on the left should yield to the one on the right.

If two people get to the intersection at exactly the same time, and they are opposite one another and both going straight or turning right, they can both go at the same time.

If two people get to the intersection at the same time opposite one another, with one going straight and one turning left, the normal rule applies...the one going straight goes first.

If 4 people get to the intersection on their respective approaches at exactly the same time, well, at that point whoever is the least timid driver has the right of way and goes first...and then the one to his left goes, and then the one to his left, and so on and so forth.

Of course, hardly anyone obeys the rules anyway, so make eye contact and remember that technically, no one ever "has" the right of way. The right of way can only be yielded to you by another driver. So even if you think you "have" the right of way, if a driver on a cross street doesn't yield, you do not have the right of in, you have to stop and do not have the right to plow into the other driver. The other driver could be ticketed for failure to yield ROW.

Posted by: thetan | February 7, 2010 2:39 AM | Report abuse

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