What Does a Yellow Traffic Light Mean?
The purpose of a yellow traffic light is to warn you that the light is about to turn red so you have time to stop safely. See Traffic Signals in Chapter Four, Traffic Control by the NYS DMV.
If you can stop safely at a yellow light, you may stop. If you cannot stop safely at a yellow light, you can continue through the intersection.
Which 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 While Still In the Intersection?
So, what happens if you run a yellow light and it turns red while you are still in 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 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, yellow, or red, please call us for a free consultation. We have even gotten substantial settlements for clients who ran a red light or a stop sign.
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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.
Can I Get a Ticket if the Traffic Light Was Yellow but Turned Red While I Was Going Through the Intersection?
While it is not illegal to go through a yellow light, that doesn’t mean you cannot get a ticket for running a red light. If you went through a yellow light, but the police officer thought the light was red, you’ll get a ticket. But you shouldn’t be convicted.
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. I entered an intersection with a yellow light to make a right turn. While still in the intersection, the traffic light turned red. I got pulled over by a police officer and got a ticket for running a red light.
But there is a difference between being ticketed and being found guilty. If the police officer was wrong, your only recourse is to plead not guilty and go to trial.
I went to trial to fight my red light ticket. I proved that the police officer couldn’t have seen the traffic light at the moment when my truck entered the intersection. The judge dismissed the ticket and 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 would 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.
When Can You Legally Run a Red Light?
If a police officer, auxiliary police officer, or traffic officer directs you to drive in a manner inconsistent with a traffic control device, you must obey the officer. If you get a ticket for disobeying the traffic light or sign when obeying the instruction of an officer, the ticket must be dismissed. See Article 24 – NY Vehicle and Traffic Law, Sec 1110 (a).
If the traffic light or sign is improperly placed or located when installed or no longer in its proper place, a ticket for disobeying the traffic light or sign must be dismissed. See Article 24 – NY Vehicle and Traffic Law, Sec 1110 (b).
Blocking the Box
In New York City, including the counties of Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, and Staten Island, 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.
A summons for Blocking the Box should not be confused with a red light ticket 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.
A red light ticket is a violation called disobeying a traffic control device. A ticket for Blocking the Box is a violation of “obstructing traffic at an intersection.”
Can You Beat a Red Light Ticket if You Ignore It?
No. While there has been much information on the internet advising people that if they ignore a traffic ticket, it will eventually go away, this is not true. You’ll just get into more trouble. It is just one of the many false statements that people maliciously post on the internet. Read why ignoring a traffic ticket is a bad idea.
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.
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