New Traffic Law Takes Effect

September 13, 2012

Maryland State Police are reminding motorists of a new law about to take effect regarding actions drivers must take when approaching intersections with non-functioning traffic signals.

Beginning October 1, 2012, a driver approaching a non-functioning traffic control signal from any direction at an intersection shall stop:

-at a clearly marked stop line;

-before entering any crosswalk; or

-before entering the intersection.

After stopping, the driver must:

-yield to any vehicle or pedestrian in the intersection; and

-remain stopped until it is safe to enter and continue through the intersection.

Intersection traffic control signals, most commonly called ‘red lights,’ or ‘stop lights,’ direct the safe and orderly flow of traffic in and through thousands of intersections across Maryland. Most are powered by electricity that can be interrupted because of storms, traffic crashes, or other incidents that cause power outages. Just because a traffic control signal is not functioning at an intersection does not mean drivers are relieved of their duty to exercise care and caution. The new law makes clear the procedures each driver must now follow.

Violations of the new law carry a fine of $90 and two points if the offense does not contribute to an accident. If the violation contributes to a crash, the fine is $130 and three points.


If two vehicles approach an intersection without a traffic control device or with a non-functioning traffic control signal from different roadways at the same time, there is existing motor vehicle law that applies. In this situation, the driver on the left must yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on his or her immediate right.

There are also times when a traffic control signal that normally operates green, yellow, and red lights may be in ‘flashing’ mode. This usually means red lights may be flashing in one direction and yellow lights are flashing in another direction. Flashing red and yellow lights on a traffic control signal do not mean the light is ‘non-functioning.’

In this situation, the drivers approaching the red flashing light must stop and can only proceed when the intersection is clear. Drivers approaching the yellow flashing light should slow down and use caution, but are permitted to proceed through the intersection without stopping. Drivers are also reminded that if a police officer is directing traffic in the intersection, they should obey the directions of that officer, regardless of the signal indicated on the traffic control device.

It is difficult to describe every potential intersection situation. Above all, drivers are reminded that it is their duty to always drive with care and caution, especially when approaching an intersection with a non-functioning signal. If other drivers are present at the intersection, remember to be courteous, use caution, and do everything possible to try to determine the intentions of other motorists and communicate your intentions, if you are unsure of how to proceed. Even if you have the right of way, it is better to allow another driver to proceed if it appears he or she is going to do so, instead of risking an intersection crash.


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10 Responses to New Traffic Law Takes Effect

  1. Anonymous on September 13, 2012 at 9:00 am

    So everybody must stop! If a cop is there directing us to proceed then he must wait because I’m going to stop first.

    • Michael on September 13, 2012 at 9:28 am

      An officer directing traffic overrides any traffic signal. If you stop when told to go you are impeding traffic and would be at fault if someone rear-ended you.

      • Anonymous on September 14, 2012 at 7:32 am


    • Anonymous on September 13, 2012 at 9:53 am

      There’s always ONE!

      • Anonymous on September 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm

        or 6

  2. G Moore on September 13, 2012 at 10:22 am

    This is common courtesy and common sense. From the time I first took the wheel 55 years ago we practiced this but am glad now people can be charged. The way so many zip through those lights when not working is scary.

  3. Anonymous on September 13, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    I thought this was already a law, wow I must be ahead of time, Where did I get that you were already suppose to do this??

    • Jimmy on September 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      No, the old law was: the primary road have right of way & side streets need to stop.

      Example: the light in front of Outback in Wildewood/Hollywood. Route 235 doesn’t need to stop for the cars on Mervall Dean & Airport Rd; they needed to wait until the intersection was clear before crossing.

  4. Chris on September 13, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Because other states already have this law in place and Maryland is way behind the curve. My guess is the many accidents that occurred during the derecho prompted the law. Now we just need to find a better way to educate the public about traffic law. I hate to say it, but when it comes to driving, a test in high school isn’t enough to last you a lifetime. The DMV should consider re-tests for drivers, lets say every five years, to keep people knowledgeable and hold them accountable.

  5. Ethan on September 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    What does the state considered to be a “non-functioning traffic signals”?
    How will the state notify drivers that the upcoming light inoperable? If the power is out and the roads are dark, how would know the light is broken and not turned off?

    Example: at one time, the traffic light at Rt4 and Coster Rd would turn off between certain hours (think 1:00am to 5am). It wouldn’t go into a “flashing mode” like most do in the very early morning hours. This was set by SHA to “save power”.