When traffic lights are not functioning, then the intersection is to be treated as if is a 4-way stop intersection, unless there is a flagger, police officer or other authorized individual directing the flow of traffic. Additionally, you should contact the local city department in charge of the traffic lights to report the malfunction. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 40 percent of all car accidents occur at an intersection. Be safe by avoiding a car accident when traffic lights are not functioning by taking extra precautions.
If you are on a bike, moped, or street legal motorcycle and come to a triggered traffic control light that uses vehicle detection such as a sensor and the light fails to operate then, an only after a fully cycle of the traffic signal may you proceed through the intersection. You need to use caution and be very aware of your surroundings to make sure other vehicles are not proceeding through the intersection. Under the law, it is not a defense should you be pulled over for running a red light that you entered the intersection under the belief that the intersection uses vehicle detection devices and had failed to change for a full cycle.
As a user of the roadways in Washington, you are responsible for knowing and obeying the rules of the road. The specific laws governing malfunctioning traffic lights and inoperative vehicle detection devices for bikes, mopeds and motorcycles is as follows:
RCW 46.61.183: Nonfunctioning signal lights.
Except when directed to proceed by a flagger, police officer, or firefighter, the driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection controlled by a traffic control signal that is temporarily without power on all approaches or is not displaying any green, red, or yellow indication to the approach the vehicle is on, shall consider the intersection to be an all-way stop. After stopping, the driver shall yield the right-of-way in accordance with RCW 46.61.180(1) and 46.61.185.
RCW 46.61.184: Bicycle, moped, or street legal motorcycle at intersection with inoperative vehicle detection device.
Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the operator of a bicycle, moped, or street legal motorcycle approaching an intersection, including a left turn intersection, that is controlled by a triggered traffic control signal using a vehicle detection device that is inoperative due to the size or composition of the bicycle, moped, or street legal motorcycle shall come to a full and complete stop at the intersection. If the traffic control signal, including the left turn signal, as appropriate, fails to operate after one cycle of the traffic signal, the operator may, after exercising due care, proceed directly through the intersection or proceed to turn left, as appropriate. It is not a defense to a violation of RCW 46.61.050 that the operator of a bicycle, moped, or motorcycle proceeded under the belief that a traffic control signal used a vehicle detection device or was inoperative due to the size or composition of the bicycle, moped, or motorcycle when the signal did not use a vehicle detection device or that any such device was not in fact inoperative due to the size or composition of the bicycle, moped, or motorcycle. For purposes of this section, “bicycle” includes a bicycle, as defined in RCW 46.04.071, and an electric-assisted bicycle, as defined in RCW 46.04.169.
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