9

I am colour blind and have difficulty distinguishing between red and yellow in traffic signals. However I can identify green as that is designated with a arrow symbol in Indian traffic signals.

So I am sometimes in a confused state to stop or go ahead when there is a yellow or red as I cannot distinguish.

Is it fine and legal to always stop my car for either red or yellow signals in traffic?

12
  • 4
    This question might be more suited to law.stackexchange.com
    – Traveller
    Nov 12, 2023 at 10:00
  • 12
    Most countries have three lights arranged vertically so position should help. If they have two, then the top (red) usually means stop and the bottom (green) usually means go.
    – Henry
    Nov 12, 2023 at 18:25
  • 6
    It's not clear from your question whether you need answers to be for India only or for other locations as well.
    – arp
    Nov 12, 2023 at 20:28
  • 5
    Traffic light colours are almost universally red-yellow-green from top to bottom, or left-to-right so there should be no difficulty in working out which lights are lit, even for someone with no colour vision at all. Note that there are exceptions, so you should check the designs if you intend to drive abroad. If you're unsure what rules you should follow in respect of each light, then I suggest Law would be a better place to ask. Nov 13, 2023 at 5:23
  • 6
    Don't know about India, but for most countries it illegal to not stop for a yellow light, if possible.
    – fishinear
    Nov 13, 2023 at 15:20

4 Answers 4

13

I initially missed that you said India, so additional information below for UK…


It seems India does not use the double light mentioned below at all.
Borrowing from the UK lights picture below, this is the sequence used in India.

enter image description here

There is no 'soft' transition from stop to go. The lights change immediately from red to green with no 'preparation' phase.

This means that an amber light always means stop.
If you can determine green but not amber/red, then by process of elimination, if it's not green, stop.
Not all traffic lights use an arrow symbol. If there is no arrow & you cannot identify at all by colour, then you will have to determine by position only.

Additionally, in quiet areas or overnight, sometimes either the red or amber will flash. Both essentially mean stop until you can determine the way is clear.


From my earlier answer - I'll leave here for future searchers who may need other countries' information.
In the UK the light sequence is different for stopping & starting, so you can judge by position and count.

From Driving Test Tips - Traffic Lights Sequence

enter image description here

If there are two lights on, that only ever follows a stop light, so you should prepare to go, but not move off until the lights change to the lowest single [green] light.

Any single light you would have to determine by position if you have no colour-sense at all to differentiate.
If you can determine green but not amber/red, then by process of elimination any single light other than green means stop.

Flashing amber in the UK is only seen at pedestrian crossings instead of the dual red/amber & means pedestrians still have right of way. Proceed only if the road is clear.

9
  • 3
    As a driver, the UK Sequence is so much nicer. It's a really small difference but it makes it incredibly better for me. I am always puzzled that not more countries use it.
    – bracco23
    Nov 13, 2023 at 10:48
  • 2
    When driving in India in at night it's common practice to ignore the flashing red light and keep going
    – Aaron F
    Nov 13, 2023 at 12:03
  • @bracco23: Manual transmission cars are much less common in the USA than in the UK. Further, a "light is about to turn green" indication might lead approaching motorists to believe that they won't have to stop, when few traffic light systems would have the sensors necessary to safely indicate such a thing (a green light almost never means motorist has the right of way, but rather than other signals are directing motorists on potential conflicting paths to yield it. If a motorist approaching a yellow light is for whatever reason unable to stop (e.g. because of a slick spot on the road)...
    – supercat
    Nov 13, 2023 at 18:54
  • 2
    @supercat - UK lights on busy or fast junctions have huge overlap times, precisely to allow for the red-light jumpers. Cameras only make them pay after the event, long timers help stop actual collisions. [Judging by the myriad 'dashcam videos' on YouTube, UK drivers struggle with roundabouts, US drivers with lights - but from those videos, so many US lights seem to be much higher than needed & are at the far side of junctions, rather than near side. Looks like a recipe for disaster for the unwary, unobservant.]
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 13, 2023 at 19:27
  • 1
    @Hoki not amber before green, red and amber before green. The sequence is the same UK-wide Flashing amber causes confusion sometimes, as it's getting pretty rare: it's only used on pedestrian crossings, in place of red & amber, and you can start to go when it shows if there's no one on the crossing. But newer crossing tend to use red & amber instead. Councils have some say in the timings on their roads, and control which roads get their turn is what order, but not much more than that Nov 14, 2023 at 21:09
8

Note that I’m not familiar with the specifics of traffic lights in India, but as far as I know, the rules below are nearly universal.

The first thing is that traffic lights are normally always in the same order. So as long as you can see the different lights whether they’re on or off (i.e. most of the time except maybe at night when you may in some cases only see the light which is turned on, so can’t determine it’s position among the other lights), you should be able to determine which light is on.

The other thing is that the sequence is well known. Green, then yellow/amber, then red. If you are able to distinguish green, you know that if the light changes, it will be yellow/amber, not red, and it will then take a few seconds to turn to red (the timing normally depends on the expected speed at that location).

In the rare cases when you could not make that difference, contrary to what many people (wish to) think, in most countries both yellow/amber and red actually mean “stop”.

The difference between the two is that when the light is yellow/amber, you should only stop if you can safely do so. When the light is yellow/amber, you can still go through, and usually won’t be fined if you do, but if you can, you should stop.

Of course, in many places most drivers will be extremely displeased if you stop at a yellow/amber light when they are used to squeeze every last seconds of it (and possibly even the first few seconds of the red light), but that’s not really your problem.

So in the rare cases you really don’t know, you can legally stop, just make sure you don’t surprise other drivers behind you: don’t stand on your brakes as soon as the light changes from green, for instance. But if you stop carefully, and get to a stop even before the light actually changes to red, then there’s nothing wrong with it, quite the opposite, that’s what you are actually supposed to do.

4
  • 3
    "When the light is yellow/amber, you can still go through, and won’t be fined if you do," this is actually not entirely true for at least The Netherlands and Australia. If you speed up to make it while you could have safely stopped they're allowed to fine you. It's not done often, but it does mean that if a cop fines you for driving through a red light, saying "it was yellow" will be answered with "if so, you could've stopped, still illegal". IANAL Nov 13, 2023 at 6:27
  • As far as I understand also stopping for a green light is not illegal, as long as you do not endanger other traffic.
    – Willeke
    Nov 13, 2023 at 8:00
  • 1
    @Willeke In fact, in some cases it's actually a good idea or even required to stop for a green light. For example, if there's emergency traffic coming from another direction or if moving the car when it's green could lead to the intersection locking up.
    – Nzall
    Nov 14, 2023 at 10:23
  • 1
    This may indeed be true for most countries, but it is not the case in, for example, most of the U.S. Only 9 of the 50 U.S. states require this, while the other 41 states allow proceeding through a yellow light in any circumstance where it would be legal to proceed through a green light and the yellow light is only an advisory signal that a red light will come soon. In my state, proceeding through an intersection is allowed if your front tires cross the stop bar before the light turns red.
    – reirab
    Nov 14, 2023 at 20:44
6

Although already mentioned in another answer, I think this pointed deserves emphasis:

Is it fine and legal to always stop my car for either red or yellow signals in traffic?

Not only if this is fine and legal. In many places it is mandatory to stop for either red or yellow signals in traffic. Check your applicable traffic regulations to be sure.

The only exception is if the light turns yellow just before you approach the intersection, and you cannot safely stop at a yellow light without tailgaters crashing into you..

8
  • 3
    This is the correct Interpretation for Germany. Bei Gelb über die Ampel gefahren - Bußgeldkatalog 2023: Although it would have been possible to brake safely, the yellow light was ignored. Fine: €10 Nov 13, 2023 at 7:55
  • 1
    @MarkJohnson Those Germans with their discount fines… no wonder nobody cares if the fine can be paid from a kid's pocket money.
    – gerrit
    Nov 13, 2023 at 11:05
  • 1
    @gerrit: In places where there is a delay between one light turning red and the opposing light turning green, failure to clear the intersection before the opposing light turns green would delay other motorists, but would not create a safety hazard if one's presence in the intersection was well established before the other motorists got the green light. Having small fines for "courtesy violations" and larger fines for safety violations makes sense to me.
    – supercat
    Nov 13, 2023 at 19:06
  • 1
    “And in case the Law, that ordaineth [pecuniary] punishment, be made with design to gather mony, from such as shall transgresse the same, it is not properly a Punishment, but the Price of priviledge[.]” Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651
    – Carsten S
    Nov 14, 2023 at 12:00
  • 1
    @reirab I've edited the answer to state "In many places".
    – gerrit
    Nov 14, 2023 at 21:17
1

Part of your question was

Is it fine and legal to always stop my car for either red or yellow signals in traffic?

In most places other drivers will not expect you to stop for a yellow light on a triple signal, and driving in a way that does not match other people's expectations can sometimes cause collisions. It may be legal to stop for a yellow light, but it may be unsafe or impede traffic flow.

In any given location the order of colored lights on a traffic signal is standardized and regulated, travelers are expected to familiarize themselves with the common traffic signals and signs of any jurisdiction where they will be driving.

(There are going to be some exceptions, for example a single flashing yellow or red light will not convey enough meaning to you. In that case it might be wisest to stop before proceeding; that is probably safe as even a yellow flashing light generally means "proceed with caution". A single flashing light can be a standard 3-part signal with only one lamp lit, flashing, or a dedicated single light, for an example picture see https://driversed.trubicars.ca/traffic-beacons/ (Canada) or https://www.wamc.org/hudson-valley-news/2014-03-22/dutchess-intersection-officials-call-dangerous-will-get-a-flashing-light (New York))

6
  • I've seen a single flashing yellow light, but I don't recall seeing a single flashing red light. Does this exist?
    – gerrit
    Nov 13, 2023 at 7:50
  • 5
    A single flashing red light is effectively the same as a stop sign in every US jurisdiction I'm aware of. In some cases an intersection will be controlled by a light that flashes yellow in one direction and red in the other; in other cases a single light can be turned on at, say, the entrance to an emergence services facility. See for example maisonlaw.com/safety-laws/blinking-lights
    – arp
    Nov 13, 2023 at 9:01
  • 3
    British Columbia, CA: " flashing yellow light [...] enter the intersection only with caution" vs. "flashing red light at an intersection must stop" -- drivesmartbc.ca/signs-signals/flashing-traffic-signals
    – arp
    Nov 13, 2023 at 9:10
  • 1
    a failed traffic control system will switch to red flashing in all directions, if possible ... the intersection must then be treated as "stop signs all around"
    – jsotola
    Nov 14, 2023 at 0:39
  • @jsotola Yep. Additionally, I have seen flashing red lights for the directions that must stop (both when only one road stops or when it's a 4-way stop) when at least one of the roads involved is a relatively busy and/or higher-speed-limit highway with at-level crossings. At least in my state, we don't have any at-level crossings in 70 mph (113 km/h) zones, but we do have some in 65 mph (105 km/h) and 55 mph (89 km/h) zones. The flashing red lights are visible at night from much farther away than the stop signs (obviously, they have those, too, as well as signs warning of upcoming stop signs.)
    – reirab
    Nov 14, 2023 at 19:58

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .