NC to change how traffic lights flash when malfunctioning

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When there’s a traffic signal malfunction, lights currently flash yellow. Over the course of 2024, NCDOT will change more than 9,000 signaled intersections.

RALEIGH, N.C. — In an effort to increase safety across the state, the North Carolina Department of Transportation will change how a malfunctioning traffic signal behaves.

Currently, when a traffic signal encounters an issue, it flashes yellow, but after NCDOT makes the change, it will flash red instead, which should alert drivers to treat the intersection as an all-way stop instead of just to slow down and proceed with caution when approaching. 

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“We are making this change to improve the safety of our intersections and provide a consistent display when the signal is not operating normally,” NCDOT’s Western Region Signals Engineer Nick Zinser said. “If a signal is in flashing mode or dark due to power loss, it becomes an all-way stop condition for vehicles and pedestrians.”

Before this change, the department used a red-yellow flashing mode that would tell the heavier trafficked road to proceed carefully while drivers who saw a red light on a side street would stop until traffic cleared enough for them to drive through the intersection. 

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This isn’t a change that will happen overnight. According to NCDOT, the department has over 9,000 signaled intersections across North Carolina, which means it’ll take nearly a year to complete the changes. 

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