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Friday, February 23, 2024
Feb. 23, 2024

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What should you do if a red light won’t change? Can you run it? Here’s what WA law says

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TACOMA — Have you ever stopped at a red light and waited for the signal to turn green, but it was taking longer than usual or it never turned green?

Can you run the red light if it’s not working?

Here’s what the law in Washington state says about running a red light that’s malfunctioning.

Can you run a red light in WA if it won’t turn green?

Trooper John Dattilo, a Washington State Patrol public information officer, said there really isn’t a good answer to if a driver in Washington can run a red light if it isn’t working properly. That’s because there’s no specific legislation regarding this specific situation.

“The only RCW that we have about traffic lights not functioning states that if the traffic light is not functioning at all, so it’s not displaying red, yellow or green, it shall be treated as a four way or an all way stop,” Dattilo said.

When traffic light signals are not displaying any signals or are temporarily without power, Dattilo said drivers should follow the Washington State law that says the intersection shall be considered an all-way stop.

According to Washington State law, bicyclists and people driving mopeds or any street legal motorcycles are permitted to drive through or turn left on a red light if the intersection is controlled by a triggered traffic control signal and fails to operate after one cycle of the traffic signal due to the size of the size of the bicycle, moped or motorcycle.

What if a red light is taking longer than usual to turn green in WA?

If a red light is taking longer than usual, Dattilo suggests that drivers look at the distance between the sensor, which is usually located at the stop line, and their vehicle, and try to adjust your vehicle, if it is safe to do so. That could reactivate the sensor.

“Something that I have seen quite frequently is people either stopping too far forward or they’re not far enough forward, so they’re like a full car length behind the stop line and if there is a significant gap or that first car is too far forward, it might not register,” Dattilo said.

Dattilo also suggests that drivers call 911 if a traffic light at an intersection is not working in order to get someone from the Department of Transportation or county public works or a law enforcement officer to help direct traffic.

Can you get a ticket for running a broken red light in WA?

The short answer is possibly.

Dattilo said it is up to the officer’s discretion if they decide to cite drivers who run a malfunctioning red light.

“Obviously it’s up to their discretion if they understand that the light isn’t working and cars are just trying to get through, but hopefully they’ll use their discretion in a positive way,” Dattilo said.

Dattilo said that running a red light in Washington can result in a minimum fine of $136.

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