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Given an intersection without traffic lights, is the absence of a traffic light the sole liability for all accidents occurring at that intersection, and is the mayor of the city accountable for the lack of installation of the traffic light at that corner, especially given that adjacent intersections do have traffic lights installed?

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  • should the question be: "Given an intersection without traffic lights, what is the probability that the absence of a traffic light is a significant contributing factor to accidents occurring at that intersection? Considering the inherent risks associated with traffic flow and the conditional probability that accidents are more likely to occur in the absence of traffic control measures such as traffic lights, is the mayor of the city accountable for the lack of installation of the traffic light at that corner, especially given that adjacent intersections do have traffic lights installed?" Commented Apr 3 at 1:13
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    I suspect a bad driver would actually be the one accountable for an accident he caused.
    – bdb484
    Commented Apr 3 at 1:58
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    @Daretoask-Idntmindpunishm A question about "probabilities" in this case would not be a legal question.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 3 at 3:35

4 Answers 4

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There are rules to determine who can drive into an intersection and who has to yield to other traffic participants. The precedence of rules are first police officers or other authorized persons directing traffic, second traffic lights, third road signs, and finally the generic laws (the motorist on the left road has to yield to motorists on the right road, motorists not on a road have to yield to motorists on the road).

In the absence on police officers or traffic lights, the question would become if there are road signs. If so, they determine who must yield. If not, the default rules apply.

However, the laws also require all motorists to remain attentive at all times and to prevent harm to others. Notably, they must be prepared that children will do any physically possible movement, no matter how unreasonable. If need be, the motorist has to come to a stop.

The authorities are legally required to provide safe roads, or warning signs where there are hazards. This is called the Verkehrssicherungspflicht. The duty to secure roads does not extend to traffic lights at every intersection, however. In fact, there is sometimes a minimum distance between traffic lights.

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  • I have already upvoted it, but your answer might profit from a summary of what that actually means in regards to the question: that there is no such thing as "missing regulation". There is always regulation, by default as you said. Whether it is obvious enough measured against the supidity of the average driver at that intersection there is a political, not a legal decision.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Apr 3 at 5:48
  • The problem is proving that an intersection is dangerous. How do you measure how dangerous an intersection is and what is the cutoff line used to classify the dangerousness of an intersection? Commented Apr 4 at 21:38
  • @lifeisaquestion, German law assumes that any car on any intersection is dangerous. No number of traffic lights will bring that to zero. That is why the motorist has to be careful, and he or she needs mandatory insurance. The expectation of the OP that 'the government is entirely at fault' just does not apply over here.
    – o.m.
    Commented Apr 5 at 5:16
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It is inconceivable that any single act or omission could be deemed the sole cause of all accidents occurring in the location.

I can think of many accidents, the cause of which would have no connection to the absence of a traffic light.

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  • should the question be: "Given an intersection without traffic lights, what is the probability that the absence of a traffic light is a significant contributing factor to accidents occurring at that intersection? Considering the inherent risks associated with traffic flow and the conditional probability that accidents are more likely to occur in the absence of traffic control measures such as traffic lights, is the mayor of the city accountable for the lack of installation of the traffic light at that corner, especially given that adjacent intersections do have traffic lights installed?" Commented Apr 3 at 1:14
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    @Daretoask-Idntmindpunishm No. That is a traffic engineering question, not a legal question.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 3 at 16:40
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is the mayor of the city accountable for the lack of installation of the traffic light at that corner, especially given that adjacent intersections do have traffic lights installed?

No. The mayor has absolute immunity from liability of this kind.

Given an intersection without traffic lights, is the absence of a traffic light the sole liability for all accidents occurring at that intersection,

No.

There are rules of the road that apply at intersections without traffic lights.

Some jurisdictions, including Colorado, waive the otherwise absolute governmental immunity from liability of the government responsible for a public road or intersection, for certain kinds of design and maintenance defects in the road (which might include failure to adhere to national standards concerning road and intersection designs). This liability, when it is present, however, is liability of the government itself only, and not any of its decision-making politicians, both the mayor and all members of the city council, would have absolute immunity from liability in this situation.

But even if the government responsible for the intersection is partially at fault in causing an accident, it would almost never be the sole party at fault. Almost any accident also implies that some vehicle driver or pedestrian failed to observe the rules of the road for intersections with no traffic lights, which would make that person at least partially at fault in the accident.

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  • The best I can think of would be if there have been a large number of serious accidents at an intersection, and the local government is aware that a signal would mitigate many of them, they may have a duty of care to implement that. But in my town I think this has mostly come about due to citizen petitions or as part of overall traffic management projects.
    – Barmar
    Commented Apr 3 at 23:18
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No

You are expected to obey traffic rules when there is no traffic signal. Expecting every intersection to have a traffic signal is not realistic. Expecting outside agents to be responsible for accidents in the absence of traffic signals would be also unrealistic.

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