What do I do when a traffic light is out?

Navigating intersections with malfunctioning or completely out traffic lights can be confusing and potentially dangerous. Knowing what to do when a traffic light is out is crucial for maintaining safety on the road.

Keep reading for tips and considerations from our Lafayette car accident lawyer, then call (337) 541-0769.

what to do when a traffic light is out

What to do when traffic lights are out

1. Stop and assess the situation

The first and most important rule when a traffic light is out is to treat the intersection as a four-way stop. This means that regardless of the size or busyness of the intersection, every driver approaching must come to a complete stop.

After stopping, drivers must determine who has the right of way before proceeding. The basic rule in a four-way stop scenario is that the driver who stops first gets to move first. If two vehicles arrive at the intersection simultaneously, the car on the right should go first. This rule helps prevent confusion and collisions.

2. Proceed with caution

When it’s your turn to go, proceed slowly and cautiously through the intersection. Not all drivers might be familiar with the rules on what to do when a traffic light is out, so defensive driving is particularly important in these situations. Make eye contact with other drivers if possible, and watch for any pedestrians who might be crossing.

3. Report the issue

Reporting a non-operational traffic light to the local authorities is helpful for community safety. In Louisiana, you can contact the local transportation department or the police to inform them about the outage. They can send someone to repair the traffic light or direct traffic if the intersection is particularly busy.

Louisiana traffic laws

In Louisiana, the rules about non-operational traffic signals are specified in the state’s traffic laws to ensure that all drivers handle such situations correctly to maximize safety.

Louisiana Statute RS 32:232 states that drivers should consider the signal as a stop sign if a traffic-control signal is not functioning at any intersection.

More things to consider when a traffic light is out

Emergency vehicles

When encountering a non-operational traffic light, it’s crucial to be prepared for the presence of emergency vehicles. Always yield to emergency vehicles with active sirens and lights. Even at a four-way stop, these vehicles have the right of way. Be vigilant and ready to stop or clear the path despite any confusion at the intersection.


With traffic signals out, pedestrians may be unsure when it’s safe to cross. Drivers should remain extra vigilant and always yield to pedestrians at crosswalks or where pedestrian signals are normally operational. This ensures the safety of pedestrians who might be navigating the intersection under less predictable conditions.

Temporary signage and traffic direction

In some cases, traffic authorities might install temporary stop signs or have personnel directing traffic until the traffic light is fixed. Drivers should follow these temporary signs and directions precisely, as they supersede normal traffic rules. Pay close attention to directions given by traffic officers or temporary signage placed at the intersection.

Nighttime or low visibility conditions

Non-operational traffic lights can be particularly hazardous at night or in conditions of low visibility (like fog or heavy rain). Drivers should approach intersections slowly and use their headlights to increase visibility. If the situation feels unsafe, consider taking a less busy route until the traffic light is repaired.

Legal implications of collisions involving broken traffic lights

Understanding the legal implications of accidents occurring at intersections with non-operational traffic lights is important. Generally, the same rules apply, but proving fault might be more complex. If involved in an accident under these circumstances, documenting the scene comprehensively and seeking legal advice can be crucial for insurance and liability determinations.

Hurt in a crash involving a broken traffic light? We can help.

What to do when a traffic light is out involves careful adherence to traffic laws and a heightened sense of awareness and caution. You can safely navigate this tricky driving situation by treating the intersection as a four-way stop, understanding right-of-way rules, and proceeding with caution. Always report the outage to help maintain community safety and infrastructure integrity.

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