When the red light just won’t change

The in basket: Matt Potter asks, “How do you handle a situation where you’re the only person at a traffic light and it seems not to want to turn green for you?”

The out basket: I told John what I would do, then asked State Trooper Russell Winger what he would recommend.

I said, “1. Make sure you are over the sensor wires just behind the crosswalk or stop bar.

“2. If so, make a right turn, if possible, and proceed to where you can safely make a U-turn (they are legal if done safely).

“3. Go back to the intersection and turn right to proceed.

“If it’s a left turn you originally wanted to make but couldn’t get a green light, I see no option but to make sure no traffic will be imperiled and run it. But you’d better wait at least two minutes first. Very few traffic signals are timed to require a wait longer than that, least of all when traffic is so light you are the only vehicle waiting.

“4. Call 9-1-1 to report a possible malfunctioning signal.”

Trooper Winger had this to say:

“I suggest that a driver, back up (only if no vehicles are behind them, of course) and attempt to trip the light.

“Failing that, wait long enough for other traffic to trip the light. Your suggestion to make a right turn, if possible, is also a possibility.

“If you drive long enough, most drivers will be faced with this occurrence at some time or another (even police officers). Usually the light will eventually cycle.

“However, if the light appears to be in total failure for all drivers, the intersection becomes a four-way stop intersection and non-regulated rules apply.” That means take turns and a car on the right of another has the right of way.

“We sometimes get calls from drivers when they have had such a problem,” Russell said. “Most instances, but not all, the signals are working correctly when we or DOT responds to investigate.

“I would suggest a driver enter an intersection on red ONLY after taking the responses suggested and getting no positive result after several minutes and cycles. Then, after yielding to any traffic with right of way, (you can) proceed through the intersection.”

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