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We Might Be Doing it Wrong! Here’s What You SHOULD Do at a Traffic Light that Loses Power (Maybe)

Stop sign
LanceB, ThinkStock

Multiple households and businesses around Michigan lost power on Wednesday due to the crazy winds, which also caused a lot of traffic lights to go out. When this happens you probably treat the light as you would a four-way stop sign, right?


I know… I’m shocked, too! Anticipating the heavy winds, the Michigan State Police tweeted a “Tuesday Tip” so people knew what to do when they came across a traffic light that was out.

Apparently, all we have to do is use the “common courtesy” rule.

Mind blown.

The four-way stop seems to be working fine but according to the Michigan Vehicle Code it’s all about who has the right-of-way. Essentially it comes down to who was there first. But if you come up to an intersection at the same time as another car, the car on the RIGHT gets to go through first.

A major road also doesn’t take precedence over other roads, as many assume. It depends on what street, whether major or side, is busier. The busier street always has the right-of-way.

The MSP responded to a person on Twitter stating that this is the correct way because:

This will make sure you are not at fault in causing a crash.”

You’re probably thinking well aren’t we already using the “right-of-way” mentality with a four-way stop? Not exactly. According to the MSP:

…that would require vehicles to stop when they are not required and cause huge traffic backups.”

However, putting a wrench into the works is what the MSP in Grand Rapids told WOOD-TV8…

Sgt. Jason Nemecke of the Michigan State Police’s Rockford post told WOOD-TV that those lights should, in fact, be treated as four-way stops. In an interview with the news station (who had said that they should be treated as a four-way, and were then corrected by a listener and wanted to get to the bottom of things), Nemecke said,

If the traffic signal is not working, we would want you to stop and every single one of them because we want make sure everybody else is paying attention as well.

Well, now we’re not sure what to believe. It seems most people in West Michigan abide by the “four-way stop” way of doing things, which honestly seems the safest. The whole “common courtesy” thing just seems confusing.


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