MALFUNCTIONING TRAFFIC SIGNALS AT INTERSECTIONS
Automobile accidents occur on a daily basis. The Federal Highway Administration reports 2.5 million intersection accidents nationwide each year. Forty percent of all traffic accidents occur at an intersection. Some of them involve a disputed traffic signal. If you believe you have been involved in an accident involving a malfunctioning traffic signal, then the following information may be helpful for you to know.
In the State of Maryland, the Maryland State Highway’s Office of Traffic and Safety is the state agency that maintains data most intersections. If you simply call the Office of Traffic and Safety and give them the road names at the intersection for which you are interested, they should be able to tell you if the intersection at issue is within their jurisdiction or if the intersection is handled by a specific county level entity. If it is an intersection that they do not handle (i.e. that is not within their jurisdiction), then they may be able to provide you with the contact information of the relevant county employee whom you can then contact.
For intersections that have traffic signals, most such counties in Maryland, are upon request, able to to provide what is known as a “traffic sequencing report” and a “timing chart” with respect to those intersections. If requests are narrow enough to encompass the exact time of your accident, then that data should be helpful for an expert to assess if the traffic signal devices at the intersection were working properly at the time of your collision or if there were any malfunctions.
It should be noted that these reports are complex and generally will not be understood by a layperson. The reports are difficult to read and interpret. Each jurisdiction can provide you or your attorney with the name of the traffic engineer who can assist with interpretation and clarification of the contents of each such traffic sequencing report.
Please note: the contents of traffic sequencing reports are generally not admissible in a civil trial without expert witness testimony. Generally, in cases involving traffic signal malfunctions, it will be necessary to call and expert witness at trial to interpret and testify as to the data and any opinions as to the meaning of the data at trial. In short, a traffic engineer will generally need to testify at trial to explain the report to the judge or jury.