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Stop . . . or Go?!?

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted this photo on his Facebook page. He labeled the picture, “Stop . . . or go?!?” Various people commented with varying levels of wisdom. The comments included, “Yield.” An obvious fan of Clint Eastwood posted, “You feeling lucky, punk?” One semi-cautious person said, “Put your foot gently on the brake pedal to engage your tail lights, but then gun it!” Then there was, “Hell, go for it! What are they going to do give you a ticket? Even if you get in a wreck, you are the one with the evidence.”

I am using the picture with permission and I am glad to say that my friend did not get in a wreck, did not get a ticket, and is still just a friend and not a client.

That brings us to the issue at hand. Could an officer give you a ticket if you cross into this intersection? The answer is maybe, but why risk it?

We all learned in kindergarten that red means, “Stop.” Likewise, green means, “Go.” But our picture shows a traffic control device on which both the green and the red are illuminated. How do you like me now, Robert Fulghum (author of Everything I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten)?

Chapter 544 of the Texas Transportation Code provides the directions for complying with a traffic control device (think a stoplight). The Code provides instruction on what to do when the traffic control signal is blinking red: the driver shall stop at the clearly marked stop line and follow the rules applicable to a stop sign. The Code provides instruction on what to do when the traffic control device does not display an indication in any signal head (no red, yellow, or green light is shining): stop and follow the rules applicable to a stop sign. Thank you, Texas Transportation Code and kindergarten, we still do not know what to do with a green and a red light both illuminated at the same time.

It would be my recommendation to stop and follow the rules applicable to a stop sign at the intersection in question. That is not a legal answer. That is a practical answer. My dad told me, “It is sometimes better to be wrong than to be dead right.” In other words, if you pull up to this intersection, stop. Stopping may be the wrong answer. But if you stop, you get home and get to post the crazy incident on Facebook. If you just plow out there with no hesitation, you may be legally in the clear, but you may also have to call a tow-truck, talk to your insurance agent, and be medically cleared by an EMT before you leave the scene of an accident.

Legally, you may have a defense if you were to be given a ticket for not stopping. First, the Code does not address the issue found in the picture. Second, you may have a defense that the device was not sufficiently legible to an ordinarily observant person. But why risk it? Stop, get home safe, and avoid having to pay me to go fight your ticket in court.

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