Image of a stop light

Traveling through intersections is routine for many drivers. However, encountering flashing traffic lights rather than the usual steady ones can lead to uncertainty about the correct response, especially for drivers who haven’t recently updated their road safety knowledge.

Flashing lights at intersections usually signal deviations from the usual traffic conditions, prompting drivers to navigate the intersection cautiously to avoid an accident.

If you are involved in a collision at a flashing light intersection, our South Carolina auto accident lawyers at Joye Law Firm can determine liability and help you seek compensation for your injuries.

When are Flashing Lights Used at City Intersections?

Flashing traffic lights at city intersections are used to communicate important information to drivers. These lights are used for altered traffic signal patterns or in place of malfunctioning traffic signals.

Below is an explanation of what different flashing traffic signals mean, as outlined in SC Statutes 56-5-1000 and 56-9-970:

Flashing Red Lights

Flashing red signals require drivers to make a complete stop at the intersection, similar to how a stop sign would be observed.

Similar to the usual procedure at a stop sign, after coming to a full stop, drivers can proceed once the way is clear, giving the right of way to other vehicles as required by traffic rules.

Drivers do not need to stay and wait for the light to change to green once they have stopped and ensured it is safe to move through the intersection. This is because flashing red lights are used when traffic signals malfunction or during non-peak hours when traffic is lighter, especially late at night.

Flashing Yellow Lights

Like flashing red lights, flashing yellow lights are typically only seen when traffic signals are malfunctioning or late at night.

Unlike flashing red lights, or steady yellow lights, drivers are not required to stop. However, flashing yellow signals alert drivers to exercise caution, advising them to reduce speed and be ready to stop if needed, as there may be cross-traffic moving through the intersection.

Typically, when one street has a flashing yellow light at the intersection, the cross street with have a flashing red light.

Flashing Green Lights

The United States traffic code does not include flashing green lights, although in Canada a flashing green light indicates a traffic signal that is pedestrian activated.

Flashing Arrow Lights for Turn Lanes

Arrow lights are used in turn lanes to guide drivers when making turns at intersections. Actions to take for arrows and flashing arrows include:

Red Arrow

  • A steady red arrow means that you cannot turn at this time, and must wait for the light to change to green or flashing yellow to proceed.

Yellow Arrow

  • A steady yellow arrow means that the light is about to change to red.
  • A flashing yellow arrow means you may proceed with the turn when it is safe to do so, but you must yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians, as they have the right of way.

Green Arrow

  • A steady green arrow signifies that you have the right of way for the indicated turn. However, you should still be watchful for pedestrians.

What to Do When Traffic Lights are Malfunctioning

When driving in South Carolina, you may come to an intersection with malfunctioning lights. If the lights are flashing erratically or not working at all, proceed cautiously and do the following:

  • Obey the directions of a traffic cop. If police are present and directing traffic, obey their signals and instructions. They will guide you through the intersection safely.
  • Treat it as a four-way stop. If there’s no traffic officer present, treat the intersection as a four-way stop. Make a complete stop and let the first vehicle at the intersection move ahead. If vehicles reach simultaneously, give precedence to the one on your right.

What Happens When a Driver Fails to Obey Traffic Signals at an Intersection?

Ignoring traffic signals at an intersection violates road safety laws and can result in serious accidents. Such negligence may make the driver responsible for any ensuing property damage and injuries.

If you were hurt in a , our attorneys at Joye Law Firm can help you pursue compensation. We can thoroughly investigate the crash, collecting proof such as eyewitness accounts and traffic camera recordings to establish liability.

After determining the cause of the crash, we can help you evaluate your losses and pursue a fair settlement from the at-fault party’s insurance. We can negotiate with the insurance provider to secure a settlement that compensates for your medical costs, emotional trauma, and lost wages due to the injuries you’ve sustained.

Get Skilled Legal Representation After a Car Accident

Failure to obey traffic signals endangers everyone on the road. If you have been injured due to another driver’s actions, our auto accident attorneys can protect your rights and help you win compensation.

We’ve been serving South Carolina residents with high quality legal representation since 1968. We can help you understand your legal options and get the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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