traffic lights

Without traffic lights our streets would be mayhem. Traffic lights, also called traffic control signals, are devices situated along, beside or above a roadway to guide, warn and regulate the flow of motor vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

It is very important for anyone using a roadway to understand traffic lights, in all their variations. When we know how to respond to traffic signals, motor vehicle accidents are reduced. Drivers should review and consult their state’s driver handbook to be sure that they are following traffic signals rules in their state.

If you or a loved one was injured in motor vehicle accident where a driver ignored traffic signals, contact a personal injury attorney today.

Understanding traffic lights to reduce motor vehicle accidents

Steady light traffic signals

Steady red light: a steady red light means to come to a complete stop. When a driver is approaching a steady red light at an intersection, he must stop before the pedestrian crosswalk. In some states – including Washington – a driver can turn right on a red light after stopping and checking that oncoming traffic is clear including both cars and pedestrians. If there is a sign stating no turn on red then turning is not allowed.

Red arrow: a steady red arrow means stop until a green signal or green arrow appears.  Drivers are not allowed to turn against a red arrow.

Flashing red light: a flashing red light should be treated like a stop sign. Drivers must come to a complete stop and observe the right-of-way rules before proceeding into a clear intersection.

Steady yellow light: a yellow signal light is a warning that the red signal is about to appear. The rule of thumb is that if the driver cannot come to a safe stop behind the pedestrian crosswalk then he should continue through the intersection cautiously before the light turns red; if the driver has time to stop safely then he should. Note: a yellow light doesn’t mean to hurry through an intersection; drivers can be ticketed for running a red light if the signal turns red while driving through the intersection.

Yellow arrow: a yellow arrow indicates that a red arrow is about to appear. Drivers should stop unless they are already in the intersection.

Flashing yellow light:  a flashing yellow light means that drivers should proceed with caution and care; drivers should slow down and be especially alert when crossing through the intersection.

Steady green light: a steady green light means to go ahead, assuming that the intersection is clear of pedestrians and vehicles. If there is a traffic back-up that would cause you to sit in the middle of an intersection then wait to enter until traffic clears; drivers blocking an intersection may be ticketed in some states. Drivers may turn left only if there is room before the next oncoming motor vehicle or bicycle is going to enter the intersection. Drivers turning left must always yield to traffic coming from the opposite direction.

Steady green arrow: when a steady green arrow is present at the same time as a steady red light, drivers may proceed in the direction of the arrow after yielding to pedestrians and other motor vehicles that might have the right-of-way. The green arrow allows drivers to make a protected turn where oncoming vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians are stopped by a red light while the green arrow is lit.

Flashing green lights: flashing green lights are not used in the United States.

Traffic signal blackout

If a driver comes up to an intersection whose traffic signals are not working because of an electrical power failure, drivers must stop before the pedestrian crosswalk and wait their turn to enter as in a four-way stop intersection.

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