Can I Get a Ticket for Entering an Intersection When a Traffic Light Is Yellow?

No! It is not illegal to enter an intersection when the traffic light facing you is yellow. There is no summons or ticket for passing a yellow light.

What Does a Yellow Traffic Light Mean?

The purpose of a yellow traffic light is only to warn that the light is about to turn red so you have time to stop safely.

What Law Says I Can Enter an Intersection When the Traffic Light Is Yellow?

NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1111 (b) 1., states: “Traffic, except pedestrians, facing a steady circular yellow signal may enter the intersection; however, said traffic is thereby warned that the related green movement is being terminated or that a red indication will be exhibited immediately thereafter.”

Is It Legal to Enter an Intersection With a Yellow Light but the Traffic Light Turns Red Before I Went Through the Intersection?

If a yellow traffic signal turns red while you are still in the intersection, you have not run a red light. You can proceed straight ahead or make a turn even though the light has now turned red.

While making a left turn with traffic coming towards you, you can pull into the intersection while the traffic light is green or yellow and stop in the intersection until the light turns red so oncoming traffic has stopped and it is safe for you to make your turn.

You should not be ticketed for passing or “running” a red light unless the light was red when your car, truck, or motorcycle entered the intersection.

If you were injured in a car accident when either you or another car entered the intersection while the traffic light was green or yellow, please call us for a free consultation.

The car in front of the ambulance entered the intersection when the traffic light was yellow. But the traffic light was already red when the ambulance crossed the stop line. The ambulance did not have its lights or siren on. The driver of the car would not get a traffic ticket but the ambulance driver should get a ticket.

ambulance running a red light

Can I Get a Ticket if the Traffic Light Was Yellow but Turned Red Before I Went Through the Intersection?

You could get a ticket and I did once. But there is a difference between being ticketed and being found guilty.

A police officer should not issue a ticket for entering the intersection while the light is yellow. If you are issued a red light ticket but the light was yellow when you entered the intersection, it is because the police officer made a mistake. A police officer may think he or she saw you enter the intersection while the light was red and give you a traffic summons even though the light was yellow.

You can have the ticket dismissed in court if you can prove to the judge that the light was yellow when you entered the intersection.

That happened to me while driving a truck in New York City. If the police officer was wrong, your only recourse is to plead not guilty and go to trial.

I went to trial on my red light ticket. I proved that the police officer couldn’t have seen the traffic light when my truck entered the intersection and the ticket was dismissed. The judge told the police officer “Don’t ever come into my courtroom again with a ticket like that.”

What’s the Easiest Way to Prove You Entered the Intersection When the Light Was Yellow?

A dash cam or dashboard camera will prove that the traffic light was yellow when you entered the intersection.

This dash cam video proved that the traffic light was yellow when the driver entered the intersection. He thought he was going to get a red light ticket when the red light camera flashed but he probably never got a red light ticket in the mail.

Red light cameras often flash, take photos, and record video but they are manually reviewed by humans before a red light ticket is sent in the mail.

This dash cam video is by a driver who was issued a red light ticket by a police officer after driving through an intersection in Manhattan, New York City. He entered a not guilty plea by mail and submitted photos from the dash cam video to prove the traffic light was yellow when his car entered the intersection. He shows the letter he received from the traffic court finding him not guilty.

Blocking the Box

In some areas like Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island in New York City, you can be given a ticket for “blocking the box” if you get stuck in the intersection when the traffic light turns red because the traffic in front of you has not moved.

This summons should not be confused with the traffic light because it only has to do with the fact that there was no room to move out of the intersection and you were blocking traffic.

Car Accidents Involving A Yellow Traffic Light

You may not get a traffic summons for running a yellow light but you may be injured in an accident.

Many car accidents occur when one car enters an intersection while the light is yellow. When the light is yellow, you need to be especially careful about

  • a car from your left or right expecting the light to change, speeding through, and T Boning or hitting your car, and
  • a car making a left turn in front of you.

See more answers to FAQs

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Attorney Franckel is a well-known personal injury lawyer, Founding Partner of 1-800-HURT-911® New York, and a former Member Board of Directors of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. He has an Avvo Top 10  Rating, Avvo Client’s Choice Award with all 5-star reviews, Avvo Top Contributor Award, Multi-Million Dollar Trial Lawyers Award, and other awards. See Mr. Franckel’s bio for areas of expertise.

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