Perspective Newsletter

Road Rules 101 Power’s out: Who has the right-of-way?

traffic lights

​​​​With wild winds as much a part of February as chocolates and flowers (longtime Northwesterners remember February for one of the worst "big blows" ever, sinking the Hood Canal Bridge in 1979), power outages remind us that spring's still more than a month away.

If you roll up on a darkened stoplight, would you know what to do?

When approaching a darkened stoplight, drivers in Washington and Oregon should:

A) Slow and look for oncoming traffic before proceeding.

B) Come to a full stop and treat the intersection as an all-way stop.

C) Yield to the vehicle on their right.

Got your answer?

Give yourself 100% if you answered "B."

In both states, drivers should treat a darkened stoplight as an all-way stop, coming to a complete stop before they reach the intersection. Then, they may proceed cautiously in the order in which they arrived.

You'll also want to watch for these what-ifs:

  • If a law enforcement officer or other authorized person is directing traffic, follow his or her instructions, regardless of who got there first.
  • If you roll up to the intersection at the same time as another car, yield to the driver on your right.
  • If a pedestrian is attempting to cross, he or she has priority (the same as at any crosswalk, marked or not).
  • If the stoplight is flashing red in all directions, treat it as a four-way stop.
  • If the stoplight is flashing yellow in all directions, you don't have to stop, but you should proceed very cautiously.

If you're an ultra-polite Northwest You-Go-No-You-Go driver, the idea of blowing through a darkened stoplight may seem unthinkable. But not so in other parts of the country. Just five years ago, Maryland established specific fines to discourage drivers from doing exactly that!

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