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The original item was published from 2/9/2023 4:46:31 PM to 2/9/2023 4:46:37 PM.

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Posted on: February 14, 2023

[ARCHIVED] Traffic light tips: What to do when the lights aren’t working

A large metal cabinet-style box containing a variety of wires and electronics

PHOTO: This photo shows the inside of a traffic control cabinet in Victoria. A traffic control cabinet contains all of the electronics that keep street lights working.

Everyone knows that a red light means stop and a green light means go—but what do you do if the lights are flashing, or if they’ve stopped shining altogether?

One thing you should do is call Public Works so they can send a crew to fix it. Traffic Control Manager Roger Beikmann reminds residents to give specific information so that the crew can respond appropriately. (Are the lights flashing, or are they completely out? Are any of them still working?)

Once the crew gets to the scene, they will open the “cabinet”—the big metal box containing all the electronics that keep the street lights working—and look at the fault monitor to see what went wrong. If the problem is on the electrical side, AEP will be called in to assist.

“It’s a complex process,” Beikmann said. “It’s not just a matter of turning a switch on or off.”

Here are some common types of lighting that you might see during a malfunction:

  • All lights blacked out: If you come to an intersection where the lights are without power, treat it like a four-way stop. Come to a complete stop, and wait for other cars who were stopped first to proceed before you take your turn. Be patient and keep an eye out for other drivers.
  • Lights flashing red: These should also be treated like a four-way stop, just as if the lights were completely out. If you see lights flashing red, it may be that the power went out recently and has since been restored, but the lights still need to be reset (like a digital clock blinking 12:00 after a power outage).
  • Lights flashing yellow: You might see these on thoroughfares after hours instead of the four-way red flash. You don’t need to stop for a flashing yellow light, but do slow down and be extra careful.
  • A flashing yellow arrow: Okay, this one isn’t a malfunction, but it deserves a special mention since more of these lights are being installed on the highways nowadays. A flashing yellow arrow pointing left is a reminder to yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic.

Sometimes the crew will put out temporary stop signs during a malfunction. Regardless of whether the stop signs are out or not, if the lights are blacked out or flashing red, you must stop.

You may also see a utilities vehicle at the scene; you can recognize them by the amber lights on top. If a utilities vehicle is parked at the side of the road, you must either move over one lane or slow down to 20 mph below the posted speed limit. (Move over or slow down—it’s the law!) 

To report a problem with a traffic light, call Public Works at 361-485-3380 or visit and click on “Report a Problem.”

Sam Hankins is the communications specialist for the City of Victoria.

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