DETROIT (WWJ) – When a traffic signal loses power, who has the right of way?

Many of us probably have the same thought: The intersection becomes a four-way stop. But that’s WRONG!

Michigan State Police say an intersection without power is never a four-way stop, unless temporary signage has been posted.

Instead, when a signal loses power, the intersection becomes uncontrolled and reverts back to the basic right of way requirements, as found in Michigan’s vehicle code MCL 257.649(1) and (2). Click here to see the law.

“Some people also mistakenly assume that the major road takes precedence, but this is not true,” Michigan State Police Attorney Steven Beatty said in an email. “To give you an example, if there are 5 to 10 cars on the side street who are continually going through the dark signal, the traffic on the main road would need to stop/yield the right of way. Likewise, if there is heavier traffic on the main road, the cars on the side street would have to wait until it is clear to proceed.”

To put it simply, the street or road with heavier traffic has the right of way. And remember, when two vehicles enter an intersection from different roadways at approximately the same time, the driver on the right has the right of way.

Police say drivers should always use caution and courtesy in these situations.

Comments (16)
  1. Ron Hoysted says:

    basic road law unless there is someone in control of the intersection, it is always give way to the right

  2. Sarah Hebert says:

    Ok, so then what if it is two major roads with heavy traffic from all directions and people going straight with cars turning right and left? These are the intersections that cause the most problems. How do you discern who goes?

  3. WWJ traffic reporters are advising just the opposite and that all intersections should be treated as 4 way stops. What happens when you have 2 major roads crossing (i.e. 12 mile and Dequindre)?

  4. Interesting because police in Allen Park were stopping people specifically for not treating a non-operating light as a 4-way stop.

  5. Logic and common sense would suggest 4-way stop. But when has our Government used logic or common sense.

  6. Just one question – how are you supposed to safely tell if your light is out – or if all the lights are out? Seems like a four way stop is the safest way to proceed for everyone.

  7. 4 way stop would be much safer and less likely to cause a accident. After myself living in michigan for 3 years while in college i can say that without a doubt michigan drivers dont know how to drive period and whoever thought up the michigan left was a moron.

  8. Rod or Sue says:

    This is the most stupid thing ever. Instead of everyone stopping and taking turns we let everyone decide which road has more traffic. Yeah….I don’t see any problems with that!

  9. Here in Florida, when a hurricane blows thru, power is lost. We get a lot of that down here. At a traffic light, it is considered a four-way stop. Most drivers adhere to that rule.

  10. Chris Curnow says:

    If you want accidents do it this way. Ignorant. 4 way is safer by far, no matter what this so called law says

  11. Carol Ann says:

    Yeah this article is ridiculous… I’m pretty old and have lived/driven through MANY a lights-out-of-order situation. At least here in Michigan, people *always* treat it as a 4-way stop when the lights go out. You could never train enough people to do it the other way — everyone is so accustomed to treating it like a 4-way stop.

  12. 4 way stop seems safer then that stupid BUSH

  13. That is so stupid. Been driving a very long time and 4 way stop was what I was taught and it is the safest way to proceed. Could not even understand what the cop was saying on tv. Someone barreled through an intersection with all traffic lights were out yesterday and everyone freaked out. Four way stop for me!

  14. It doesn’t say the busier street has the right of way. It says whoever is in the intersection has right of way. If nobody is in the intersection and two or more cars reach the intersection at the same time, yield to the car on your right. Also, 257.649 says “highway” but elsewhere in chapter 257, highway is defined and it just means “any street/road”.

  15. Steve Krebs says:

    1) The driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection shall yield the right of way to a vehicle which has entered the intersection from a different highway.

    So this implies that if the intersection is empty and there are two cars approaching, the race is on to see who gets there first, to get the right of way, and not have to stop. This is ridiculous. Clearly, the average driver has more common sense than the writers of our traffic laws. A 4 way stop is better and safer.

  16. Bill Fisher says:

    Attorney Steven Beatty in this article contradicts First Lieutenant Thad Peterson in another article:

    I have been studying this controversy for years. State, County, and Municipal police officers contradict each other. The media contradict each other. The only way to correct the problem is by creating one simple, easy-to-remember law, then communicating it to the public via a state-wide media blitz.

    Some states have done this, making it an all-way yield. It’s simple, effective, and if the intersection is busy, drivers yield to the point of stopping. It can be done; it has been done with proof that it works.

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