When the lights go out in the city....Literally

8:55 AM

So, what happens when the Lights go out in the city, by lights I mean stop lights. Do you just keep cruising through or do you treat it like a four way stop and let traffic continue to flow smoothly. 

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That is the question that had me shaking my head this morning as I sat at a Stop light which was flashing red continuously here in Knoxville today for over 17 minutes wondering if anyone was ever going to stop and do the right thing seeing as how both sides of the light were out. Finally at 13 minutes one side of traffic stopped to let one car from my side go through, then traffic continued on for another 4 minutes with no one stopping, I was first in line on my side, with a good guess of about 25 cars lined all the way past a school trying to get through.

So After a miraculous 17 minutes sitting, one car in a two lane stopped for me, so I slowly started inching through praying that the car beside it had stopped as well...nope, it was cruising through , finally saw me and started to slow down but never stopped. The traffic from both sides had stopped except this one car so I wondered, it is a courtesy to treat a downed stop light as a 4 way stop or is it actually the law?

I was taught from the day I started driving almost exactly 22 years ago, that you treat the light as a stop sign. Which is ironic because the town I grew up in had no traffic lights except on caution light ,that has changed a tiny bit since I left 20 years ago. So I called the police and reported the light and ask the million dollar question, is it a law to treat it as a stop sign or  a common courtesy..the answer? The law. So, I saw at least 100 cars pass through this light as if it were green, that tells me that if I had to guess, 75% of Knoxville drivers do not know the law or chose to ignore it.  Now, just to be sure, I came home after that phone call and did my research, and yes, it's true, it should be treated like a stop sign.


Was this never a question on any driving test? I saw people older than me, my age and younger simply going through this light like it was no big deal. You would think that sitting there for 17 minutes a Police Officer would have shower up to help direct traffic since it was obviously a cluster muck.

So next up I ask my Son, when you took your driving test anywhere in the handbook did it say anything about what to do if a stop sign went out, his response was yea, I think so but I don't remember what it was. So, my own offspring did not even know the answer to the question.

Of course, I follow those rules, but I guess they missed that part, not that it hasn't happened many times when they have been in the car with me. I think this afternoon I will ask my 11 year old because I am betting she will know the answer, I know the 14 year old now knows, as he was in the car with me. 

I know it happens here in Knoxville, and I am willing to place a good bet that it happens all over the U.S.

Oh and did I mention that on my way back through I took a different road parallel to that road but so I could still see the stop light and saw that there was an accident there ? One more car behind the accident was a school bus carrying a bus load of kids to school. Was it a serious accident ? No, it looked very minor and they were moving off to the side, but want to know the really fun part? The light was still out and the main lane of traffic was still flying through this blinking red light. However, Motorcycles have a little bit of a different law in this aspect, which is another story all together.

So how do we educate drivers who have been driving for years on  this law, or the new young drivers? Do we take an add out on Facebook, send in a newspaper article, or simply hope that one person will read this and pass it on and so forth. I think in reality, it should be a question on every driving test and a question that should be ask every time before you can renew your license. It's not a new law, it has been in effect for quiet some time. 


So I sit here this morning, baffled as to what I can do as a individual to educate everyone on this law. My guess is, probably nothing. However, I can hope that each person who reads this will tell one other person who tells another and maybe just maybe, we can educate a few members of the driving population on how to treat a light..when the lights go out..in the City.

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