Running Yellow Lights

If a traffic light is yellow, you can proceed through it as long as it does not turn red.  In law seldom are there clear precise answers.  A reading of the relevant statute also leads to the conclusion that if you enter the intersection while the light is yellow; and it turns red while you are in it, you cannot be convicted of running a red light.

I have been in court when an officer has charged a driver with running a red light, even though the driver said she entered the light while it was yellow.  The judge found her not guilty, but her decision to drive through the yellow light resulted in her being ticketed, she had to argue her case in court, and fortunately was before a wise judge.

I was recently called by a very knowledgeable gentleman who is an authority on such situations, and he too said that if a traffic light turns red after you have entered an intersection on a yellow light, that you are not guilty of running a red light.  He correctly said that trying to stop at a yellow light, while another motorist is too close behind you for you to stop safely — could be a violation of the law.

When you pass through a yellow light, you are risking arrest for running a red light, driving too fast for conditions, reckless driving, speeding, etc., etc.  Use common sense.  If you can stop safely, stop at the yellow light.  If you cannot, and the light changes to red, you probably won’t be convicted even if you are arrested.

I asked the same authority on traffic violations, what he would like me to tell you about traffic rules.  He said that we all should know that when a pedestrian is at an intersection and has a “walk” light in front of him; that just because the sign turns to “don’t walk” the pedestrian should not turn around and go back in the direction he came from.  If you have a “walk” sign, and can walk through the intersection at an average pace, do so even if the light changes.  The lights are programmed so that you should be able to walk through as long as you start with a “walk” light.

Categories: Traffic Law


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