When a Yellow Light Turns Red—To Stop or Not to Stop?

by | May 4, 2015

We all know that the law requires us to stop at red lights and that green means “go,” but yellow lights inhabit a no man’s land when it comes to traffic law. We’ve all found ourselves in a situation where we’ve reached an intersection at full speed and a light has just turned yellow. In cases where it would be dangerous to stop, the law generally allows drivers the right to continue through a yellow light. But what happens if the yellow light turns red just as a person crosses the intersection at full speed? Is it okay to run the red?

According to the Idaho Statesman, Idaho is among 37 states that have a permissive yellow light law. The law allows drivers the right to run a red light if their vehicle is located anywhere in the intersection when the light changes. States that do not have a permissive yellow light law require that drivers completely clear the intersection by the time the light turns red.

Yet, does the law encourage drivers to speed through yellow lights? Idaho residents speaking to the Idaho Statesman claim that they frequently see drivers trying to beat the yellow, resulting in several cars being in an intersection by the time the light turns red. In 2013, 424 individuals were cited for running a red light.

Because Idaho law prohibits the use of red light cameras, short of positioning officers at every stop, enforcement of the permissive yellow law is difficult. Officers who positioned themselves at one intersection found five red light violations an hour. This means that drivers kept going despite the presence of a red light, even when the light changed prior to their reaching the intersection.

This can create a dangerous situations for drivers who see a green light and who decide to go immediately. A driver running a red light at high speed poses a serious car accident danger to drivers who are following the law.

The time a yellow light lasts in Idaho depends largely on the speed limit of the area. For areas with speed limits between 25 and 35 miles per hour, the light remains yellow for 3 seconds, while the light will remain yellow for more than 4 seconds in areas where the speed limit is over 40 miles per hour.

According to the Columbian, thousands of car accidents occur each year as a result of hesitation or speeding at yellow lights. Because laws vary state to state, interstate drivers may not always know when to stop or go.

In Meridian and Boise, Idaho drivers should take caution when choosing to go through yellow lights, and drivers stopped at reds should always look both ways before proceeding when the light changes to green. Even so, every day drivers rely on everyone following the law. The Law Office of Johnson & Lundgreen is a firm of personal injury lawyers in Meridian and Boise, Idaho committed to helping car accident victims seek justice when drivers run red lights.