It was during the infamous blackout of 2003, which took out large chunks of the northeast power grid, that I became fully aware of the depth of the problem. I had been taught since I first got a learner’s permit that in such situations the most logical course of action was to treat the intersection as if it were a four-way stop. It’s only common sense, isn’t it? Well, let me be kind by simply saying that some see it differently. Driving for hours around my Council District that night was an eye-opening -- and frightening -- experience.
After some research, I was a bit surprised that the “four-way stop” rule was not, in fact, a rule at all, and no law governed the way motorists should handle such situations. It was merely a custom, and while it was customary to me, to many others it was not.
I contacted then-Assemblyman John Lavelle and explained my experiences on the night of the blackout, and shortly thereafter he introduced legislation to close the loophole. In due time, the law passed both the state assembly and senate, and on November 1, 2004 it went into effect.
So, for those of you who are not sure, or may have forgotten, how to treat a broken or unpowered signal, now you know. Approach the non-working light exactly as if it were a stop sign, and if everyone does the same, the intersection will behave just as does a four-way stop. Under NO circumstances should you treat a non-working signal as if it gives you right-of-way, even if you are on a major primary street like Hylan Boulevard.
By the way, John Lavelle was the chairman of the Democratic Party at the time, which serves as just another example of how when it comes to the safety and betterment of Staten Island residents, working across the aisle is the rule of the day, and partisanship takes a back seat to common sense.