What if the light never turns green?

This was the exchange between EJsGirl and Edward the Head in AWB’s “I got caught by a traffic camera in Rosslyn, dang-it” thread.

So what happens if, for some reason, a traffic light never turns green and you can’t manually trip it?
How long do you wait at a red light, before you can claim it was malfunctioning, should you have the misfortune to be pulled over by a cop?

Happened to me once. Waited five minutes at a light before realized it was stuck. Fortunaytely, it was pretty deserted.
“Do you see that red light?” I asked my passengers.

"Yes, they replied.

“Neither do I,” I said, and drove right through it.

The really legal way (in most intersections) would be to make a right-on-red, do a legal U-turn of some sort, and use the green light you now have to go whichever way you originally intended. If you can’t make a right-on-red, ummm, find another road.

It’s happened to me a couple of times.

Once on a rainy night, when the glare made it hard to see where to go to trigger the light, I waited to make a left turn. After the lights had been through a cycle or two, skipping my left turn light, it was clear to me I hadn’t triggered it, so I drove on. There was a cop car nearby, but I couldn’t tell if anyone was in it or not; if so, they didn’t stop me.

Another time there was a traffic light that just didn’t work. A moderately busy intersection, and it took me about 15 minutes or more to get through it, after waiting on the people in front of me to go, so it was clearly not working. No cops around this time, but I can’t imagine they would really pull anyone over; I would think the first thing they’d do would be man the intersection and direct traffic until the light is fixed.

About the former case, when you simply miss the trigger (or even can’t trigger it with your motorcycle), I’m not so sure what a cop would do, however. If he saw the whole thing (you drive up, wait a significant period of time, then go), I would imagine he’d let you slide. If he just caught you running out, I imagine you’d be out of luck. But that’s all just my opinion, of course.

Keep in mind that , at night, some light’s cycle time on side streets can be long.

If the cop is sitting there watching the intersection, he knows if the light is working.

If the cop comes to the light while you are waiting, it is a really good idea to let him go through and leave before you run the light.

If the cop pulls behind you while you are waiting, you can walk back to him and tell him you think the light is broken.

You can always just turn right on red and make a U turn. Then you have a green light.

Heh. A pal of mine fell asleep at the handlebars waiting for a left-turn light to change in Charleston, SC, about 1990. He fell off of the bike, into the street. When the 5-0s finally came for him, apparently hours later, they determined that A) he had been wearing a cut-off bracelet that shut the vehicle down as soon as he passed out and B) despite that, the blood test proved he had (just) descended into the realm of sobriety, and was therefore unarrestable on any count. He said he had about $20 in change in his pockets which prevented him from getting vagged as a last resort.

Next week, some cop ran a baton up the pipes of his fairly unique Roadster, testing for noise violations. I think he was happy to leave the place, although I personally think it’s a great town.

I was delayed by an interminable red left turn light while on the way to work a few months ago. Another car was behind me, but it was dark so I couldn’t make out anything about the vehicle because of the glare in my mirror. Went ahead and made the turn, and thought “Oh crap” as I saw that it was a police car. The cop went through also, no ticket, not even stopped. As an aside, I work in a rough part of town and have been stopped numerous times by inquisitive officers who want to know what I’m doing driving around in a gigantic white car, late at night, in that part of town. I guess the “My child is an honor student at…” bumper sticker doesn’t carry much weight with the local constabulary.

Used to have this problem getting to work: rode a bicycle, and had to take a left turn to get to my job. Couldn’t ever trip the switch, so after stopping and making sure things were clear, I’d just turn anyway. Didn’t really have any choice, other than sit there until a car came and be late for work. No idea what the law would say about it, though.

That’s not legal if you’re not in the right lane.

As far as I can tell, the officer can do whatever they want. I’d try the crosswalk button first.

Of course, if it is operational, my car will always trip it, which may be the reason that I know that it is basically their choice. I was driving to work one late night along an area that is cruised by many teenagers on the weekends… In my nearly asleep state, with the stop-and-go that is so common on the roads here (due to poor traffic light timing), I hit the gas when I should have hit the brake. Luckily, nobody was on the crossing road, Unluckily, There was a police officer in the lane beyond the car directly to my right. About 1/4 of the way down the block, the lights went on and the cop started to follow me, I pulled into the left lane (since I was going to turn left anyway), and the officer pulled up next to me. They waved for me to roll down my window, and told me that I had just ran a red light. I started to tell the officer that I was sorry and tired… Before I even said three words, He flipped off his lights and said “Just don’t do it again.” I agreed, and rolled up my window.

I thought it was odd, then again, he may have been wondering too, since I was driving a car that is the same make/model as a police car…


Since I brought this up I’ll respond here too. I’m looking for a cite now as well.

I have been told by cops and the motorcycle safety instructors that if you come upon a traffic light that does not cycle through for you, you are allowed to treat the light as a stop sign. The time is what is strange as there is no set time you have to wait though most people have said if the light cycles once or twice without changing for you then it probably will not change unless someone comes up behind you.

The reason that they tell motorcycles to do this is because it is somewhat dangerous to be sitting at a light waiting for someone to come up behind you, especially at night. Personally i have yet to do this even though I have wanted too and probably should have. if/when I find cites I’ll post.

I have ‘ran’ a few broken lights, sometimes on major roads w/o problems.

back in college, and a very boaring class, I could see the road outside and the left turn lane into the school. The turn arrow would only ‘trip’ if your car was in the right place - and most people would pull up too far (driving over it didn’t matter, you had to sit on top of it and is was 1 car length back from the stop line). Most people who didn’t know the deal would pas it, miss 1-2 light cycles and decide it was broken and run it. One person waited for about 8 light cycles and finally went when a car behind her triped it.

Well where I’m from, the traffic is so bad that you usually have to watch the lights go from red to green to red over and over at least 70 times before you can get through them. so seeing as I miss so many green lights in the daytime through no fault of my own, I just ignore red lights at night time to balance things out. Besides, at night time, the police are all asleep.

There’s a traffic light a few streets away from me that has a faulty trigger. Many times I’ve waited for minutes for the light to turn green, even in the middle of the night with zero traffic.

Yet, I’m always hesitant to run the light (although I invariably always do, eventually). See, this particular intersection is right next to a police station. :slight_smile:

I used to work at a job that required me to be on the road at 3 a.m. There was one light that I could usually trigger, but not always. I would wait a minute, while moving my car back an forth in an effort to trigger the damn light. If it still didn’t work , I would look around and go through. There was rarely anyone else on the road anyway.

Umm wait a moment. If there is a cop nearby, he would notice it didn’t change & you could ask him what to do.

Otherwise just going through it has no risk since there is no cop nearby.

Now suppose you were sitting at a red light, and a fire engine with flashing lights and loud sirens comes up behind you. There is no place to go but into the intersection. Do you move, or not? I was always taught to let the engine go around you, but I’ve seen many people simply drive through the light.

In the area of the town I used to live there was only one 24 restaurant that was very convienient. So us late hangers would always go there, and being a 24 hour place there was a good chance of a couple cops being there. There was absolutely nothing else any where around, but to make it from the restaurant on to the main road, there was a left turn, that was on the worst cycle, around a 5 minute wait while nobody drove past. Most everybody just stopped at the light and went, I saw many cops leaving the place do the exact same thing. My friend was driving away from the place, and reached the light right as a cop pulled up behind him. Not being an idiot, he just sat waiting for the real arrow. After about 40 seconds the cop honked. My friend kind of hesitated, but still sat there. The cop honked again, so my friend figured that was a clear indication it was okay to go. He made the turn, then the bastard cop flipped on his lights, followed him through, pulled him over and gave him a ticket for running a red light. My friend found out in the matter of taking it to court learned that if you have waited 5 minutes, and it is clear to go then you have the right to treat it as a stop sign, at least in that state.

Oh man, that is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves! People who sit at the light with a fire engine/ambulance right behind them, blaring and honking away with no other way to get around. You HAVE TO MOVE! Everyone else at the intersection is sitting there waiting, just pull ahead of the cars next to you so the emergency vehicle can get by. I mean, if you’re the one in that ambulance, would you rather die or have someone run a red light? (I’m not yelling at you elsphen, just the collective “you”) Grrrrr.
As to the OP, I’ve had it happen many times to me. I wait what I consider a reasonable time, then go through. And of course, if it’s late at night and you can clearly see that there’s no cars in any direction, you don’t have to wait at all! :slight_smile: Happy Driving!

In addition, defenses for having your picture snapped by a camera as you run a red light include

obviously implying that it is ok to run a light because an emergency vehicle is behind you. They do not include a broken/untripped signal, although they do include “any other issues and evidence that the District Court deems pertinent”.