Northwest NEWS

March 6, 2000


Traffic Talk

by Joe Seet, traffic engineer, City of Woodinville

   Anyone with questions about traffic in Woodinville or the Eastside is welcome to e-mail their inquiries to They will be forwarded to Joe Seet, who is the Senior Traffic Engineer for the City of Woodinville's Public Works Dept. Joe came to the City staff after working for the State of Washington.

   Q: What do I do when I come to a traffic signal that is flashing, and why does the signal go into a flashing mode?

   A: A traffic signal stops operating and goes into flashing mode for a number of reasons. One of the most common causes is power outage. The traffic signals of today have moved away from the traditional mechanical timers to modern electronic circuit boards. These circuit boards have built-in circuit breakers that reset the boards and put the signal into the flashing mode during a power outage or surge.

   When a signal at an intersection goes into a flash mode in the State of Washington, the intersection is to be treated as an uncontrolled intersection. All Washington traffic rules and regulations for an uncontrolled intersection would apply, as long as the light is still in flash. At an uncontrolled intersection, the primary right-of-way belongs to the car that arrives first, regardless of who is on the right or left. In case of simultaneous arrival, drivers must yield to the car on the right; or, if the car is facing you and going straight and you are going left, the facing car goes first. All drivers should always approach any flashing intersection with extreme care and caution.