You’re driving along Hughes Boulevard or Forest Park Road in Elizabeth City, North Carolina (NC) and suddenly the traffic light ahead starts flashing. What do you do? Many drivers may have trouble answering this question. It’s even more daunting to decide what to do when you’re on the road.

This scenario occurred at the Skinner’s Bypass traffic light. Skinner’s Bypass is at the intersection of U.S. 70 and N.C. 11 and when the light started flashing, some drivers did not know what to do and wound up causing a car accident that injured multiple people. It turns out the traffic lights were out for only five minutes prior to the car crash, according to

Maybe this car wreck could have been prevented if the drivers involved knew what to do in this situation. Which leads to the ultimate question – what exactly do you do when faced with a malfunctioning traffic signal?

According to NC law, 20-158 section 6 states:

“When a traffic signal is not illuminated due to a power outage or other malfunction, vehicles shall approach the intersection and proceed through the intersection as though such intersection is controlled by a stop sign on all approaches to the intersection. This subdivision shall not apply if the movement of traffic at the intersection is being directed by a law enforcement officer, another authorized person, or another type of traffic control device.”

So remember, malfunctioning traffic signal = stop sign. You should also be extremely cautious driving through a dysfunctional traffic light because, as we’ve discussed, not all drivers are aware of this statute.