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Fatal accident raises questions about stoplight

There are important safety devices in each of our cars that help keep us safe and either avoid accidents or survive them without serious injuries. Seat belts, airbags, and even windshield washer fluid all help to keep us safe. There are also a number of external mechanism that, when operating properly help us avoid accidents, the rumble strips in the middle of Michigan highways, for example, help alert drivers if they are not properly placed in their lane.

Traffic lights are one of the most active examples of an external device designed to keep motorists safe. When traffic lights are working properly, they safely manage the movement of vehicles through an intersection, ensuring that all of the cars from one direction have time to clear the intersection before other traffic move through. This obviously provides a high greater degree of safety than uncontrolled intersections when there is a high volume of cars. But what if the lights were not functioning properly?

While an uncontrolled intersection can lead to accidents, at least at uncontrolled intersection drivers know that they must be on the lookout for other cars, and yield the right-of-way in certain situations. When an intersection is controlled by stoplights, drivers reasonably assume that if they enter the intersection on a green light, they will be able to clear the intersection before other cars are permitted to enter. But if the traffic lights are malfunctioning this assumption can lead to tragic results.

A Michigan family contends that this is exactly what happened in a recent accident in Detroit. One of the drivers involved in the fatal crash said that the light went directly from a green light to a red light without a yellow light to allow her time to pass through the intersection. The county claims that the lights were working properly up until the time of the accident, though they admit that they are not working regularly now, but claim that is due to damage to a control panel during the crash.

Source: My Fox Detroit, "Traffic Light to Blame for Deadly Crash in Chesterfield Township?" Amy Lange, Monday Feb. 13, 2012

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