Red Light, Green Light, No Light, GO!

Four-Way Stop Not Actually Law of the Land

If you’ve driven around in Montgomery County over the past few days, you may have run into the commute from hell. Dozens of traffic signals remain out after Sunday’s big storm.

Police have posted uniformed officers at many of the largest intersections to help direct traffic. Most drivers are treating non-patrolled intersections as four-way stops. But surprisingly, there’s no actual law to govern it.

In the state of Maryland, there is no law forcing drivers to slow down or yield at intersections with a non-working stoplight, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. "Although most drivers think it is a matter of common sense and courtesy... that is not necessarily the case when the ‘every man for himself’ rule prevails and pervades during rush hour," said John Townsend of AAA.

Without the law, "it’s completely legal to simply ignore the broken traffic light and drive right through," said Del. Saqib Ali (39th District). Ali has sponsored a bill that would change that for the past several years, but so far it has not passed in the General Assembly.

Despite a legal obligation, AAA points out if you are in an accident as the result of ignoring a broken traffic signal, you could still be sued for negligence.

Bottom Line: Don’t be an idiot. Slow down, yield to other vehicles already in the intersection, and treat it like a four-way stop.

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