Subtitle 2: Traffic Signs & Signals

Subtitle 2 lays out the rules for traffic signals, road signs and markings. This is where you can find that laws that define running a red light, stopping at crosswalks, and what double yellow lines between lanes mean.

MD Transportation Art. – Subtitle 2: Traffic Signs, Signals and Markings

§ 21-201: Obedience to Traffic Control Devices Required

§ 21-202: Traffic circular lights and arrows; vehicle traffic and pedestrians

§ 21-203: Pedestrian Control Signals

§ 21-204: Flashing Red or Yellow Lights Used in Traffic Signals or Signs

§ 21-205: Signs, Signals, Markings, or Devices Imitating Actual Traffic Control Devices

§ 21-206: Actions Prohibited Relating to Traffic Control Devices

§ 21-207: Privileges for Funeral Processions

§ 21-208: Signs Required for Overpasses Less than 14.5 Feet in Height

§ 21-209: Traffic Required to Stop


§ 21-201: Obedience to Traffic Control Devices Required

Obedience to traffic control devices

(a)(1) Subject to the exceptions granted in this title to the driver of an emergency vehicle, the driver of any vehicle, unless otherwise directed by a police officer, shall obey the instructions of any traffic control device applicable to the vehicle and placed in accordance with the Maryland Vehicle Law.

(2) The driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection controlled by a traffic control device may not drive across private property or leave the roadway for the purpose of avoiding the instructions of a traffic control device.

Traffic control devices not in proper position or illegible

(b)(1) If a provision of the Maryland Vehicle Law or of an ordinance or regulation of a local authority requires a traffic control device, the provision is unenforceable against an alleged violator if, at the time and place of the alleged violation, the traffic control device is not in proper position and legible enough to be seen by an ordinarily observant individual.

(2) Unless a provision of the Maryland Vehicle Law or of an ordinance or regulation of a local authority states that a traffic control device is required, the provision is effective and enforceable even if no traffic control device is in place.

Presumption that devices placed by official act or direction of lawful authority

(c) Unless the contrary is established by competent evidence, if a traffic control device is placed in a position approximately meeting the requirements of the Maryland Vehicle Law, the device is presumed to have been placed by the official act or direction of lawful authority.

Presumption that devices comply with vehicle law requirements

(d) Unless the contrary is established by competent evidence, if a traffic control device is placed in accordance with the Maryland Vehicle Law and purports to meet the lawful requirements governing these devices, the device is presumed to meet the requirements of the Maryland Vehicle Law.

§ 21-202: Traffic circular lights and arrows; vehicle traffic and pedestrians

Green, red, and yellow lights used by colored lights or lighted arrows

(a)(1) Except for special pedestrian signals that carry a legend, where traffic is controlled by traffic control signals that show different colored lights or colored lighted arrows, whether successively one at a time or in combination, only the colors green, red, and yellow may be used.

(2) These lights apply to drivers and pedestrians as provided in this section.

Vehicle traffic facing circular green signals

(b) Vehicular traffic facing a circular green signal may proceed straight through or, unless a sign at the place prohibits the turn, turn right or left.

Turning vehicles under (b) yield right of way to other vehicles and pedestrians

(c) Vehicular traffic described under subsection (b) of this section, including any vehicle turning right or left, shall yield the right-of-way to any other vehicle and any pedestrian lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk when the signal is shown.

Vehicle traffic facing green arrow signals

(d) Vehicular traffic facing a green arrow signal, whether shown alone or with another indication, cautiously may enter the intersection, but only to make the movement indicated by the arrow or to make another movement permitted by other indications shown at the same time.

Turning vehicles under (d) yield right of way to pedestrians

(e) Vehicular traffic described under subsection (d) of this section shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian or bicycle lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to any other traffic lawfully using the intersection.

Pedestrians facing green signals

(f) Unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian control signal as provided in § 21-203 of this subtitle, a pedestrian facing any green signal, unless the green signal is only a turn arrow, may cross the roadway, within any marked or unmarked crosswalk, in the direction of the green signal.

Vehicle traffic facing steady yellow signal

(g)(1) Vehicular traffic facing a steady yellow signal is warned that the related green movement is ending or that a red signal, which will prohibit vehicular traffic from entering the intersection, will be shown immediately after the yellow signal.

(2) Unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian control signal as provided in § 21-203 of this subtitle, a pedestrian facing a steady yellow signal is warned that there is not enough time to cross the roadway before a red signal is shown, and a pedestrian may not then start to cross the roadway.

Vehicle traffic facing steady circular red signals

(h)(1) Vehicular traffic facing a steady circular red signal alone:

(i) Shall stop at the near side of the intersection:

1. At a clearly marked stop line;

2. If there is no clearly marked stop line, before entering any crosswalk; or

3. If there is no crosswalk, before entering the intersection; and

(ii) Except as provided in subsections (i), (j), and (k) of this section, shall remain stopped until a signal to proceed is shown.

(2) Vehicular traffic facing a steady red arrow signal:

(i) May not enter the intersection to make the movement indicated by the arrow;

(ii) Unless entering the intersection to make a movement permitted by another signal, shall stop at the near side of the intersection:

1. At a clearly marked stop line;

2. If there is no clearly marked stop line, before entering any crosswalk; or

3. If there is no crosswalk, before entering the intersection; and

(iii) Except as provided in subsections (i), (j), and (k) of this section, shall remain stopped until a signal permitting the movement is shown.

Vehicles facing steady red signal allowed to turn left or right after stopping

(i) Unless a sign prohibiting a turn is in place, vehicular traffic facing a steady red signal, after stopping as required by subsection (h) of this section, cautiously may enter the intersection and make:

(1) A right turn; or

(2) A left turn from a one-way street onto a one-way street.

Vehicles facing steady red signal allowed to turn indicated by sign after stopping

(j) If a sign permitting any other turn is in place, vehicular traffic facing a steady red signal, after stopping as required by subsection (h) of this section, cautiously may enter the intersection and make the turn indicated by the sign.

Vehicle traffic in (i) and (j) yield right-of-way to pedestrians

(k) In each instance, vehicular traffic described in subsections (i) and (j) of this section shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian or bicycle lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard.

Pedestrians facing steady red signal

(l) Unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian control signal as provided in § 21-203 of this subtitle, pedestrians facing a steady red signal alone may not enter the roadway.

Traffic control signals placed at location other than intersection

(m) Except for those provisions of this section that by their very nature cannot apply, this section applies to a traffic control signal placed at a location other than an intersection. Each stop required by the signal shall be made at a sign or marking on the pavement indicating where the stop shall be made or, if there is no sign or marking, at the signal.

§ 21-203: Pedestrian Control Signals

In general

(a) Where special pedestrian control signals showing the words “walk”, “dont walk”, or “wait” or the symbols of “walking person” or “upraised hand” are in place, the signals have the indications provided in this section.

Walk or walking person signal

(b) A pedestrian facing a “walk” or “walking person” signal may cross the roadway in the direction of the signal and shall be given the right-of-way by the driver of any vehicle. At an intersection where an exclusive all-pedestrian interval is provided, a pedestrian may cross the roadway in any direction within the intersection.

Don’t walk or upraised hand signals

(c) A pedestrian may not start to cross the roadway in the direction of a “dont walk” or “upraised hand” signal.

Wait signals

(d) A pedestrian may not start to cross the roadway in the direction of a “wait signal”.

Partially completed crossings

(e) If a pedestrian has partly completed crossing on a “walk” or “walking person” signal, the pedestrian shall proceed without delay to a sidewalk or safety island while the “dont walk”, “wait”, or “upraised hand” signal is showing.

§ 21-204: Flashing Red or Yellow Lights Used in Traffic Signals or Signs

In general

(a) If a flashing red or yellow light is used in a traffic signal or with a traffic sign, it requires obedience by vehicular traffic as provided in this section.

Flashing red lights; stop at clearly marked stop line

(b) If a red lens is lit with rapid intermittent flashes, the driver of a vehicle shall stop at the near side of the intersection at a clearly marked stop line.

Flashing red lights; stop near side of intersection with crosswalk

(c) If a red lens is lit with rapid intermittent flashes, the driver of a vehicle shall stop at the near side of the intersection, if there is no clearly marked stop line, before entering any crosswalk.

Flashing red lights; stop near side of intersection with no crosswalk

(d) If a red lens is lit with rapid intermittent flashes, the driver of a vehicle shall stop at the near side of the intersection, if there is no crosswalk, before entering the intersection.

Right to proceed after making stop

(e) The right to proceed after making the stop is subject to the rules applicable after making a stop at a stop sign.

Flashing yellow lights

(f) If a yellow lens is lit with rapid intermittent flashes, the driver of a vehicle may proceed through the intersection or past the signal only with caution.

Railroad grade crossings

(g) This section does not apply at any railroad grade crossing.

§ 21-205: Signs, Signals, Markings, or Devices Imitating Actual Traffic Control Devices

In general

(a) A person may not place, maintain, or display on or in view of any highway any unauthorized sign, signal, marking, or device that purports to be, is an imitation of, or resembles a traffic control device or a railroad sign or signal.

Signs, signals, markings, or devices attempting to direct movement of traffic

(b) A person may not place, maintain, or display on or in view of any highway any unauthorized sign, signal, marking, or device that attempts to direct the movement of traffic.

Obstruction or interference with railroad signs or signals

(c) A person may not place, maintain, or display on or in view of any highway any unauthorized sign, signal, marking, or device that hides or interferes with the effectiveness of a traffic control device or a railroad sign or signal.

Content of unauthorized signs, signals, markings, or devices

(d) A person may not place, maintain, or display on or in view of any highway any unauthorized sign, signal, marking, or device that, except as otherwise permitted by law, contains:(1) Any of the following words: “stop”, “curve”, “warning”, “slow”, “danger”, “listen”, “look”, or “school”; or(2) Any other word used in directing the movement of traffic.

Traffic signs or signals containing commercial advertising prohibited

(e) A person may not place or maintain on any highway nor may any public authority permit on any highway any traffic sign or signal that has any commercial advertising on it.

Signs on private property containing useful directional information

(f) This section does not prohibit the placement on private property adjacent to a highway of a sign giving useful directional information, if the sign is of a type that cannot be mistaken for an official sign and is placed with the approval of the State Highway Administration.

Prohibited signs, signals, markings or devices a public nuisance

(g) Each sign, signal, marking, or device prohibited by this section is a public nuisance, and the authority that has jurisdiction over the highway may remove it without notice.

§ 21-206: Actions Prohibited Relating to Traffic Control Devices

Alteration or interference with traffic control devices or railroad signs or signals

(a) A person without lawful authority may not willfully alter, or interfere with the operation of, any traffic control device or any railroad sign or signal, including any inscription, shield, or insignia on it.

Defacement of traffic control device or railroad signs or signals

(b) A person without lawful authority may not willfully deface any traffic control device or any railroad sign or signal, including any inscription, shield, or insignia on it.

Injury to traffic control device or railroad signs or signals

(c) A person without lawful authority may not willfully injure any traffic control device or any railroad sign or signal, including any inscription, shield, or insignia on it.

Knocking down traffic control devices or railroad signs or signals

(d) A person without lawful authority may not willfully knock down any traffic control device or any railroad sign or signal, including any inscription, shield, or insignia on it.

Wilfully change direction of traffic control device or railroad signs or signals

(e) A person without lawful authority may not willfully change the direction of any traffic control device or any railroad sign or signal, including any inscription, shield, or insignia on it.

Twisting of traffic control device or railroad signs or signals

(f) A person without lawful authority may not willfully twist any traffic control device or any railroad sign or signal, including any inscription, shield, or insignia on it.

Removal of part of traffic control device or railroad signs or signals

(g) A person without lawful authority may not willfully remove any part of any traffic control device or any railroad sign or signal, including any inscription, shield, or insignia on it.

Possession with intent to use device to alter or interfere with operation of traffic control device

(h) A person without lawful authority may not possess, with an intent to use, any device capable of transmitting an infrared, electronic, or other signal to a traffic control device or a railroad sign or signal for the purpose of altering or otherwise interfering with the operation of the traffic control device or a railroad sign or signal.

Fines and penalties

(i) A person convicted of a violation of this section is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 2 months or a fine not exceeding $500 or both.

§ 21-207: Privileges for Funeral Processions

Procession allowed through intersection with red signal

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, a funeral procession facing a red signal may continue through or make a turn at an intersection if the first vehicle in the procession already entered the intersection before the signal changed from green to red.

Vehicles prohibited from entering intersection while procession passes

(b) While a funeral procession is proceeding through a red signal as permitted by this section, a vehicle that is not in the procession may not enter the intersection, even if it is facing a green signal, unless it can do so without crossing the path of the procession. When the red signal changes to green while the funeral procession is still within the intersection, a vehicle facing a green signal may proceed, but the funeral procession has the right-of-way.

Use of headlights and warning lamps required

(c) The driver of a vehicle in a funeral procession does not have any privilege granted in this section unless:(1) The headlights of the vehicle are turned on; and(2) Subject to § 22-221(g) of this article, the warning lamps of the vehicle are flashing.

§ 21-208: Signs Required for Overpasses Less than 14.5 Feet in Height

Sign denoting height above roadway

(a) All overpasses less than 14.5 feet in height above the roadway surface shall have a sign denoting the height above the roadway.

Design and placement of sign

(b) The design and placement of the sign shall be consistent with the specifications established in the manual on uniform traffic control devices for streets and highways adopted by the State Highway Administration under § 25-104 of this article.

§ 21-209: Traffic Required to Stop

Sign denoting height above roadway

(a) All overpasses less than 14.5 feet in height above the roadway surface shall have a sign denoting the height above the roadway.

Design and placement of sign

(b) The design and placement of the sign shall be consistent with the specifications established in the manual on uniform traffic control devices for streets and highways adopted by the State Highway Administration under § 25-104 of this article.


Notes

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Cases & Examples

§ 2-203

Subsection 203 governs the rules for pedestrian crosswalk signals at intersections. This section of the code often becomes a key issue in pedestrian accident cases in which a defense of contributory negligence is being raised.

In Absolon v. Dollahite, 326 Md. 547 (2003) the Maryland Court of Appeals held that a pedestrian’s violation of the crosswalk signal rules does NOT constitute contributory negligence as a matter of law. In that case, the plaintiff (a pedestrian) started to a cross a street even though the signal had already changed from walk to a flashing hand (a violation of § 2-203(e)). She was struck by Defendant’s vehicle before reaching the curb. The defendant argued that Plaintiff’s violation of the crossing signal rules constituted contributory negligence as a matter of law and was granted summary judgement by the trial court. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Plaintiff’s violation of § 2-203(e) did not “automatically” establish contributory negligence so as to support summary judgment. Instead, the jury should decide whether violating the crosswalk signal established contributory negligence.

§ 2-204

If a driver with the right-of-way proceeds through an intersection with a flashing yellow light and fails to exercise caution (as required by § 2-204), they can be held at-fault and liable for the accident based on this violation. Jenkins v. Charles County Bd. of Educ., 21 Md. App. 1 (1974)

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