Inoperative Traffic Lights
Chris Burns asked: Group of cyclists pull up to a traffic signal. Their presence does not trigger or activate the traffic light to change. It won’t change from red to green. Are they legally entitled to go through the light? Must they turn around?
A frequently heard response is that it should be treated as an inoperative traffic control signal and the following statutes would apply.
s. 316.1235 – Vehicle Approaching Intersection in which Traffic Lights are Inoperative
The driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection in which the traffic lights are inoperative shall stop in the manner indicated in s. 316.123(2) for approaching a stop intersection. In the event that only some of the traffic lights within an intersection are inoperative, the driver of a vehicle approaching an inoperative light shall stop in the above-prescribed manner.
s. 316.123 – Vehicle Entering Stop or Yield Intersection
(2)(a) …. every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop intersection indicated by a stop sign shall stop …. After having stopped, the driver shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle which has entered the intersection from another highway or which is approaching so closely on said highway as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when the driver is moving across or within the intersection.
Being unsure of the correct answer, we referred Chris to the FHP Q&A site www.flhsmv.gov. This is their response:
Thank you for your recent inquiry. In your scenario, a cyclist should not stop, yield, and then proceed through the intersection if faced with a Red Steady Signal. The best suggestion would be to make the right turn and later safely u-turn, or possibly find an alternate route. For instances where you know a bicycle/motorcycle is not tripping the sensors, one is encouraged to contact the regulating authority (FDOT or County maintenance).
Let us know if you have any further questions about this,
Customer Service Center
Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
It was argued (but not addressed to the FHP) that another statute might apply and actually contradict that answer.
s. 316.074 – Obedience to and Required Traffic Control Devices
(2) No person shall drive any vehicle from a roadway to another roadway to avoid obeying the indicated traffic control indicated by such traffic control device.
If that is the case and there is no pedestrian signal to activate the signal, it seems we cannot avoid the signal, even by legally turning right onto another roadway, and are required to wait until the light changes, even if means forever. Could that be an argument in mitigation of a citation?
Even though it is not stated, the probable intent of this statute is to prevent people from using a shopping center or parking area to avoid traffic backed up at a light with the intent to turn right.
That argument is likely only academic since a cyclist legally making a right turn then a U-turn to circumvent an inoperative signal would only be illegal if the intent is to avoid the signal. That intent is only in the mind of the cyclist. It would probably not be substantive legal basis for running the light instead of following the FHP guidance above, nor would it be a basis for a citation for a violation of s. 316.074.
It is recommended that cyclists learn the proper methods for using the loops to activate the signals through other resources.