It’s Time to Stop And Think About Portable Traffic Light Laws

portable traffic lights

If you’ve been a licensed driver for any significant amount of time, you’ve most definitely encountered temporary traffic lights. Has the thought ever crossed your mind on whether or not you are legally required to obey them? If the signal is temporary, is it actually valid?

Though having to stop at portable traffic signal signs may be an inconvenience, these signals are placed where assistance with traffic flow is needed. While it may be tempting to disregard the temporary signal, doing so could be extremely dangerous to yourself as well as others around you. However, if you are here, you are likely wondering about the legality of temporary lights and if one would face a penalty, ticket, or otherwise if the light were not obeyed. First, let’s go over what temporary traffic lights are.

Portable Traffic Light

What are temporary traffic lights?

Temporary traffic lights, or automated portable traffic signals, are removable signals that are put in place to control or direct the flow of traffic through intersections or other areas in need of traffic control. They can be used in construction zones, in place of a malfunctioning permanent traffic signal, in emergency situations, or used to alleviate congestion near an event with high attendance. Trailer-mounted traffic signals can be programmed to work in conjunction with permanent signals and can also be configured to include pedestrian crosswalk systems (the push button that a pedestrian utilizes in order to trigger the WALK light). Portable traffic signal systems may be full-sized and overhead, or smaller cart-style placed on the shoulder of the road. Typically, the signals are attached to a trailer so that they can be moved from place to place easily. Though they are smaller than their permanent counterparts, the overall general look of the signal remains the same with round red, yellow, and green lights.

Do you legally have to stop at temporary traffic lights?

If you have searched “do I have to stop at temporary traffic lights?” on Google, you will see some websites state that stopping for portable traffic signal lights is not mandatory or legally enforceable. However, upon reading these articles, we discovered that many of these results are from the United Kingdom. Minnesota statute defines one form of traffic-control signals as “exhibiting different colored lights, or colored lighted arrows, successively one at a time or in combination, only the colors Green, Red, and Yellow shall be used, except for special pedestrian signals carrying a word or legend.” The statute further states that when the circular red portion of the signal is red or flashing red, traffic must stop. A portable traffic signal meets the legal definition of a traffic-control signal and thereby must be abided by in the same manner as a permanent traffic light. Though all traffic signals must be obeyed, there are instances in which a traffic light, whether permanent or temporary may be ignored. Traffic lights are only legally able to be disregarded when traffic is directed to pass by a police officer or by a flagger.

For readers who are not in Minnesota, it is recommended to check your state laws or with local law enforcement regarding portable traffic signals, but, as a rule of thumb, drivers of vehicles should obey all traffic signals while on the road. Traffic signals, whether permanent or portable, are placed in areas needing traffic regulation, and in order to be safe and drive responsibly, they must be obeyed.

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