Flashing red: NCDOT’s answer to signal malfunctions

Raleigh, NC – The N.C. Department of Transportation is improving safety at intersections when a traffic signal malfunctions and defaults into a flashing mode.

NCDOT stop lights

The department has begun modifying its traffic signals so they will revert to a flashing red in every direction whenever there is a problem, such as an equipment failure or a perceived error, that disrupts their normal operation. Drivers should treat this kind of flashing mode like a conventional all-way stop.

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

Previously, the department used a yellow-red flashing mode when a signal malfunctioned. In this case, the main corridor with the heavier traffic received a flashing yellow for drivers to cautiously proceed, while the side-street drivers received a flashing red instructing them to come to a complete stop and wait until there was a safe gap in traffic.

NCDOT has more than 9,000 signalized intersections across the state, including those operated by municipal agreements in several cities. The department will phase in this change over the next year as part of the preventative maintenance it already conducts on traffic signals.​