Dilemma of the day.
On the way to the station this morning I was caught in a traffic queue where normally there is no queue.
The cause of the holdup was a set of temporary traffic lights showing red.
They must have been red for some time as when I joined the queue there were already about 20 cars ahead of me on what is a quiet road.
Two or three minutes later and we were still going nowhere.
By the way the car nearest the lights kept inching forward I could see the driver was suffering both frustration and a dilemma:
“Should I ignore the lights and go through?”
His hesitation in making a decision was probably based on three things:
1) Am I legally entitled to ignore the red light? After all it is only temporary, set up by workmen.
2) Are the lights actually working or not?
3) If I do go will I meet anyone coming the other way? The closed lane extended around a blind corner round which other cars intermittently materialised.
Eventually the driver of the lead car made his decision and set forth with the rest of us following. Luckily we didn’t meet anything coming the other way and as it turned out the lights ‘controlling’ traffic in the other direction were blank.
I couldn’t have helped on points 2 and 3, but on point 1 the Highway Code is clear that you have a legal obligation to obey temporary traffic lights. As the code says in section 109:
Traffic light signals and traffic signs. You MUST obey all traffic light signals (download ‘Light signals controlling traffic’ (PDF, 82KB)) and traffic signs giving orders, including temporary signals & signs (download ‘Traffic signs’ (PDF, 486KB).
A look at the road casualty figures show that traffic lights – or rather broken ones – can kill. In 2012, 39 people were died or were seriously injured in accidents where automatic signals were out or defective. Another 190 people were killed or seriously injured at roadwork sites.
Luckily, no such result this morning.