Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: January 29, 2024 8:34am CST
Traffic laws can get confusing since there are a lot of them, and they can change slightly depending on your state or local jurisdiction.
Nevertheless, we are all expected to adhere to traffic laws and obey the rules of the road, which inherently helps to prevent unnecessary accidents from causing harm or loss of life.
For most drivers, knowing what to do while behind the steering wheel has become a matter of muscle memory rather than active attention to specific traffic laws at the moment.
Likewise, most of us pay more attention to the current speed limit rather than the particulars of why that speed limit applies to a specific stretch of road we are on.
Not to mention, we are more concerned about getting pulled over by police for speeding than we are about how the faster our car is going, the longer it takes to come to a complete stop, which makes pedestrian and rear-end car accidents more challenging to avoid.
It’s easy to forget about the life-and-death implications of traffic laws. The fact is that unsafe and reckless driving are chronic issues made worse by ignorance of the laws.
Unfortunately, there is also a rising issue of general unfamiliarity concerning specific rules meant to be common knowledge for all motorists, which impedes safe movement through intersections.
One reason for this negative trend of lack of awareness of traffic laws stems from a combination of factors involving new state laws and the recent surge of undocumented immigrants entering the United States.
For instance, Florida recently passed a law banning undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses.
Politics aside, this makes our roadways more dangerous by there being more unlicensed (did not pass skills test) and uninsured drivers to worry about.
Being aware of the purpose of traffic signals does not translate to knowing what the different colors, arrows, and flashing patterns mean.
Similarly, learning by observing other drivers on the road may leave you with an incorrect understanding of the law, such as a yellow light signaling that you should step on the gas and speed your car through the intersection (it’s not).
Despite most countries using a variant of red, yellow, and green traffic lights, they are country-specific.
So, someone from the United Kingdom driving in the United States can’t rely on how traffic signals work back home to know what to do and vice versa.
When drivers get confused on busy roads and highways, mayhem is often soon to follow.
Flashing Red and Yellow Lights Are Notorious For Causing Confusion
Occasionally, you may come across a traffic control signal flashing red or yellow without ever turning green or becoming solid.
This can be deeply confusing to individuals unfamiliar with or who have forgotten what the phenomenon means (even though it is covered in driver education before acquiring a driver’s license, people have trouble recalling this info years and decades later).
Unfortunately, ignorance of this information means a higher chance of getting into a right-of-way accident at intersections.
The meaning of each common and not-so-common type of flashing traffic light, as well as the legal implications of who is at fault for car accidents involving them, will be the focus of this article.
We also include two animated video guides that discuss flashing yellow lights (solid and flashing yellow left-turn arrows) for extra insight.
With that said, let’s get cruising.
First, let’s take a quick pit stop to discuss how traffic lights help us to make sure we are all on the same page.
How Do Traffic Lights Help Us?
While traffic lights can frustrate motorists who are in a rush, they are essential for regulating the flow of traffic and keeping people safe.
Think of it this way: if red lights were abolished and made a thing of the past so people could travel non-stop across intersections, you could expect countless collisions and many more lives lost in car accidents.
Like other types of technology, signalized traffic, and red light systems, whether illuminated red circles or red arrows (traffic signals indicating not to turn).
Traffic lights are electronic and computerized devices and are prone to mechanical failure, compromising their functionality.
So the question is, what happens to prevent chaos from unfolding when these traffic control devices stop working?
Red Light: What Does a Flashing Red Light Mean?
Ordinarily, a red traffic light indicates that you must react by coming to a complete stop as you approach an intersection stop line to allow motorists coming from another part of the crossing to proceed.
Most flashing red traffic lights occur when:
- Utility poles or the power source attached to a traffic light sustain physical damage that compromises their integrity.
- The traffic light’s sensors are being disrupted by extreme temperatures (i.e., extreme cold or ice).
- The traffic light’s internal components have worn out and are failing.
Reason Behind Flashing Red Traffic Signals At an Intersection
When a traffic signal malfunctions in any of these ways, it defaults to a flashing red rather than fulfilling its full range of functions. That is because the light cannot be relied on to manage traffic until it is repaired and reprogrammed properly.
As for what the flashing red light means, it is designed to operate as an impromptu “STOP” sign. Therefore, any motorists who come to an intersection where the traffic light is flashing red must treat it as though they are approaching a stop sign.
This situation can be confusing for some, especially if they did not pay much attention during their initial driving education (though this particular traffic contingency can be easily overlooked, considering everything a modern motorist must know).
Fortunately, if you know how to handle an intersection with a stop sign, you can handle one with a flashing red light.
The problem is that other colors and shapes of flashing lights can also appear while driving and need to be known about.
Yellow Light: What Does a Flashing Yellow Light Mean?
A flashing yellow traffic light signal at an intersection means caution to drivers. The blinking of yellow traffic lights informs drivers to reduce the speed of their motor vehicles and proceed through the intersection with caution while making sure to be extra alert to the road around them (scan for oncoming and cross traffic).
Do You Need To Stop At a Flashing Yellow Light?
No, a flashing yellow signal does not require you to stop at an intersection. Its meaning is not the same as a flashing red traffic light. Due to flashing red lights being more common, many people get this confused and incorrectly make a complete stop when they come across a flashing yellow light.
The activation of a typical flashing yellow light at an intersection only occurs when something has made the affected street more challenging to navigate.
Warn of Temporary Road Hazards
One of the most common causes of a flashing yellow traffic light is major construction on the road, such as asphalt replacement. The blinking light is often accompanied by orange temporary road hazard signs, such as “Workers Ahead” signs.
The combination of the two warning indicators is to mitigate the risk of cars and trucks striking construction workers and avoid accidents caused by road work.
For instance, a large pothole could extend past the center lane, requiring drivers in the right lane to veer their vehicles slightly to the right off to the side of the road to safely avoid it.
These situations require extra driver alertness and lower speeds, which flashing yellow lights are for.
Most flashing yellow traffic lights occur when:
- There is construction on the roadway (signals to drivers to be aware that workers may be present)
- Late at night when there is little traffic to control (Generally, cross-traffic can expect a flashing red light signal)
- After a power outage due to the traffic signal not functioning properly
With that said, you now know how to correctly answer the following on a driver’s ed test, “A flashing yellow light at an intersection means ______________.”
What Does a Flashing Yellow Arrow Mean?
Flashing yellow arrows are a new type of traffic signal that can be found facing some left-turn lanes and indicate to drivers wanting to turn left that they are permitted to but must yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians.
Left-Turn Yield On Flashing Yellow Arrow
The Federal Highway Administration has required flashing yellow left-turn arrows to be included in specific new traffic light installations since 2009. This requirement was in response to a report released by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP).
Safety Benefits of Flashing Yellow Arrow Traffic Signals
The NCHRP report’s gathered data indicates that a flashing yellow arrow has many road safety benefits over the traditional yield on green signals.
A flashing yellow arrow is more intuitive to motorists, is more efficient, and has led to fewer left-turn crashes among drivers than the traditional yield on green signals.
The most recent technical report evaluation about the safety of flashing yellow arrow treatment for signalized intersections was published by the Federal Highway Administration in 2020.
Traffic Light Arrows:
There are a total of four possible light signals incorporated into the flashing yellow arrow (FYA) light system.
Flashing Yellow Arrow
A flashing yellow arrow means you are allowed to enter the intersection carefully in the direction the arrow is pointing while yielding to all oncoming traffic and pedestrians who are crossing.
Steady Red Arrow
A steady red arrow signal means you need to stop your vehicle and remain stopped in your lane until the traffic signal changes.
Steady Green Arrow
A steady green arrow signal means you can proceed with turning in the direction indicated by the arrow signal. It has the same rules as the traditional left-turn yield on the green system.
Steady Yellow Arrow
A steady yellow arrow signal means that the traffic signal is about to turn red and that you should stop before entering the intersection.
Main Difference of the New Flashing Yellow Arrow Signal System
The main difference between the flashing yellow arrow and traditional traffic light systems is that the flashing yellow arrow replaces the solid green signal used to indicate to motorists wanting to turn left that they must yield to oncoming traffic before maneuvering.
Similarly, U-turn yield sign rules remain unchanged by flashing yellow arrows for left-turn lanes.
Many states have passed laws requiring flashing yellow arrows at certain intersections.
Green Light: What Is Right-of-Way?
Right of way is a fundamental component of driving that prevents collisions as long as all motorists adhere to its definition. Like most legal terms, “right of way” has a different meaning depending on the context in which it is used.
Nevertheless, the traffic law definition and legal meaning of right of way is relatively straightforward.
Definition of Right-of-Way In Driving:
In simple terms, the legal definition of “right-of-way” refers to a driver having the right to proceed, which is required to be granted by other drivers and pedestrians (“yield the right-of-way”).
As you might expect, the details about who has the right-of-way vary slightly by state since many states have specific traffic laws for determining if a driver legally has the right-of-way or not.
You can read Florida’s law about right-of-way at intersections.
Still, regardless of the location you find yourself driving in, right-of-way for intersections refers to who gets to go first and who must yield to them before it’s their turn.
It is always incumbent on drivers and pedestrians who have the right-of-way to use common sense and reasonably attempt to avoid collisions with drivers who should be yielding to them.
Intersection Right-of-Way Examples:
The concept of who has the right-of-way applies every time a traffic signal light changes or someone wants to change lanes or pass the car to their side.
Right-of-way disputes between drivers are commonly associated with four-way intersection accidents. These intersections involve traffic moving in 4 different directions and are generally controlled by traffic lights or Stop signs.
Who Has the Right-of-Way at Four-Way Intersections?
At four-way intersections, drivers with a green light or who got to a stop sign first generally have the right-of-way, and drivers with a red light or who were not first at the stop sign must yield. Pedestrians in crosswalks generally have the right-of-way ahead of cars at intersections.
The right-of-way for flashing red lights is exactly the same as it is for a four-way intersection with four stop signs.
Who Has The Right-of-Way At a Four-Way Stop?
The driver with the right-of-way at a four-way stop intersection (4 stop signs) is the driver whose car arrived first. When two cars pull up to a stop sign at the same time, the car on the left has to yield to the driver on the right, who has the right-of-way to proceed across the intersection.
Do Pedestrians Have the Right-of-Way In a Crosswalk?
Yes, pedestrians in crosswalks generally have the right-of-way ahead of cars at intersections unless a clear signal indicates otherwise, like a green arrow for turning vehicles.
Pedestrians must yield to cars if they have yet to enter a crosswalk (still on the side of the street).
When Must a Vehicle Yield To a Pedestrian?
Drivers making a right or left turn must always yield to pedestrians who are in the process of crossing the street. A flashing yellow arrow signal also indicates that drivers must yield to pedestrians and oncoming vehicles before proceeding.
During a steady yellow signal or light change, drivers and pedestrians should be extra cautious regardless of who has the right-of-way.
Risk of Right-of-Way and Intersection Accidents
Car accidents are increasingly likely to happen when one or more drivers fail to yield the right-of-way, whether by running or rolling through a stop sign or a red light or not waiting for the driver who got to the intersection first to cross.
Intersection accidents, such as those involving pedestrian crosswalks at a four-way stop, can be particularly hazardous.
It’s essential for drivers to be vigilant and adhere to the right-of-way laws, especially when the light changes or when making a left or right turn at a crosswalk.
When auto accidents occur, whether it be a traffic light accident involving a low-speed rear-ending or a more serious collision between a motorcycle and a car, understanding the right-of-way rules will play a significant role in determining liability and seeking justice for the victims involved.
Remembering the fundamental right-of-way principles can significantly minimize the risk of accidents and ensure smoother and safer road interactions for everyone involved.
7% of All Fatal Car Accidents Are Caused By “Failure To Yield Right-of-Way.”
Unfortunately, right-of-way accidents are extremely common.
According to the most recent traffic safety facts report from the NHTSA, accidents caused by a driver failing to yield the right-of-way are the 4th most common cause of traffic fatalities in the United States.
51.4% of Fatal Pedestrian Car Accidents Are Caused By “Failure To Yield Right-of-Way.”
When you focus just on pedestrian accident fatalities, “failure to yield right-of-way” is by far the leading factor of pedestrians being killed in auto accidents.
Being a victim of a car accident caused by someone else recklessly refusing to respect the right-of-way laws can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you were driving safely and did nothing wrong.
The question is, what are your legal options if you find yourself injured and your car damaged from a driver failing to yield the right of way hitting you?
Filing a Personal Injury Claim After a Car Accident
Not only are motor vehicle collisions the leading cause of personal injury claims in the country, but they are also among the most common reasons someone would file a civil lawsuit. Car accidents and personal injury suits practically go hand in hand.
They are definitely not infrequent occurrences.
There are almost 20,000 car crashes on average every day in the United States. That means the odds of you living to a ripe old age and never experiencing a car crash at some point in your lifetime are relatively low.
This is all the more why we must maintain caution and a high level of awareness when operating a motor vehicle. Even the safest and most experienced drivers can be struck and injured due to someone else’s negligence.
That is the unfortunate commonality of most car accidents. Rarely will you find a multi-car accident that does not involve at least one car being at fault due to making a negligent driving mistake.
You Have a Right To File Civil Lawsuits
Filing a personal injury claim empowers us to hold other parties responsible and be compensated for the harm caused by someone else’s negligent or intentional tort actions against us.
It’s within all of our rights to have access to the court system and file a lawsuit for remedy, regardless of whether you are an American citizen, a permanent resident with a Green Card, or undocumented.
You Should Hire a Car Accident Lawyer
Good personal injury lawyers understand the litigation process and know how to negotiate with insurance adjusters for flashing traffic light accident cases.
That experience and know-how help them obtain larger settlement amounts on behalf of their clients.
Schedule Free Consultation and Case Evaluation With an Attorney
So, by having a free initial consultation with a car accident lawyer and law firm, you get to ask them questions to see if they are a good fit for you.
Once you decide to hire one to represent you, you stand a higher chance of getting more money for your claim than you would if you tried to settle or litigate your case Pro Se (represent yourself).
Insurance Companies Save Money When You Skip Hiring an Attorney
Think of it this way: It’s not a coincidence that insurance adjusters regularly offer a low-ball settlement amount immediately following a car accident.
They do that because as soon as you sign the settlement agreement, you sign away your ability to hire a lawyer and bring a lawsuit against their policyholder for the car crash for all time.
So all the medical treatment you may need and loss wages you may have will no longer be their worry, and only yours.
Not accepting the offer and hiring a car accident attorney on your claim help protect you from these situations and avoid falling prey to other insurance company defense lawyer tactics (it’s their job to pay you as little as possible).
Negotiating Your Car Accident Injury Settlement
If your personal injury lawyer can prove the other party was responsible for the collision, you will have the upper hand. That makes it easier for them to secure a fair settlement on your behalf during the mediation process.
This settlement can be used to pay off medical expenses and repair bills while usually leaving a little leftover for you. The problem is that proving their liability can be challenging, considering the amount of evidence that can be lost during the collision.
With all this said, there can still be issues, as you must be able to prove the defendant’s liability.
Proving fault and establishing liability can make for a challenging legal endeavor, as you are subject to the circumstances of the car crash event. It takes evidence.
How To Prove Who Is At Fault In Traffic Light Accident Cases
While gathering compelling evidence and proving fault can be a hassle, it is now more possible than ever, thanks to the modernization of traffic lights and intersections.
Most traffic lights in populated cities and towns are equipped with cameras that steadily capture live video, including car accidents within their field of view.
Once you identify the jurisdiction of where the traffic camera is located, you can contact the proper agency (i.e., the police department) to request a copy of the recording.
Recorded traffic cam footage showing a car crash unfolding can be an excellent form of evidence and make a crucial difference when trying your case.
There is a general conception among lawyers that juries love watching and trust video footage in court.
So, if what is seen in the recordings backs up your telling of the events, your case will be much stronger. Unlike guilty defendants and partial witnesses, recorded video footage will never lie about your right-of-way car accident claim.
Nevertheless, proving fault is another issue that is only one aspect of how right-of-way claims work out.
Closing Statements About Flashing Lights and Right-of-Way
Flashing traffic lights usually indicate an error with the light system or some obstruction on the road ahead. Either way, you must take extra care when driving on the street with a flashing red or yellow light.
The dangers of distracted and unsafe driving are exacerbated in these right-of-way situations.
Accidents caused by a driver failing to yield right-of-way remain a constant threat since not everyone does an adequate job of driving safely nor is familiar with all the traffic rules.
When drivers do not heed the warning of a flashing traffic signal or come to a complete stop at a stop sign, they make the road they are putting themselves and other people they come across in harm’s way.
They are also thrust into a situation that necessitates they weigh their legal options and seek legal advice.
That makes for a long road ahead, as the average car accident claim could easily take a year or more to settle, which also means they won’t receive a personal injury settlement until after their case is resolved.
That puts many people in a challenging financial waiting game situation. They can’t afford to pay for the unexpected costs caused by the crash and still stay on top of their general living costs like rent, food, and gas.
The only end in sight is when their case settles, but understandably, that can be way too long, even when you are not in debt. If this sounds similar to you or someone you know, don’t lose hope.
Apply For Plaintiff Legal Funding While Your Personal Injury Lawsuit Is Pending
We at Express Legal Funding understand how challenging it can be to manage your finances while dealing with a lawsuit. Fortunately, our pre-settlement funding service can be a crucial solution for you to call upon during the lawsuit process.
It can put immediate cash in your hands for you to use as you see fit, such as to help you pay off overdue bills and make new purchases for you and your loved ones.
A unique benefit of our pre-settlement advance funding is that it can be made to you before your case is resolved without bringing on personal debt.
That is because it is not financed as a loan, as you could typically expect with traditional loans between a lender and a borrower. Instead, since we are a legal funding company, we can advance to you non-recourse (risk-free).
That means that instead of loaning clients money on their lawsuits, we purchase the right to receive a portion of their claim’s potential proceeds (i.e., a settlement or court award).
The structure of the funding agreement is an investment between a buyer and a seller and not a loan, which means the only way and time we can get paid is after the case is settled or won.
This also means that you get to keep the legal funding money you received as an advance against your claim from us if you lose in court and receive no recovery.
You don’t have to worry about it turning into personal debt, and it has no bearing on your credit.
(Please note that in a select handful of states, this type of financing can be issued as a lawsuit loan, which is recourse and technically not risk-free.)
If you hired an injury attorney and have an ongoing car accident lawsuit against another party that harmed you, but you need money now, not only after your case ends, you should consider learning more about and applying for pre-settlement funding.
We can be an excellent solution to get you to the other side of your lawsuit, still financially intact and ready to be paid.
Express Legal Funding continues to be a national leader among pre-settlement funding companies in helping people apply and get approved fast. You can call us or apply online for legal funding anytime, 24/7.
Remember, you can apply with confidence because we care and look forward to helping you when you need it most.
Relevant Author Experience With Flashing Red and Yellow Traffic Lights:
Strategy Director and Author Aaron Winston has over a decade of experience as a licensed driver since passing a driver’s education course and DMV skills test. He is based in the United States.
Aaron has spent tens of thousands of hours traveling by car and bus in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Middle East.
About the Author
Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
Aaron Winston earned his title "The Legal Funding Expert" through authoritative articles and blog posts about legal funding. He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs.
Each month, tens of thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.
As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, Aaron has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. His "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery.
Aaron Winston is the author of A Word For The Wise. A Warning For The Stupid. Canons of Conduct, which is a book in poetry format. It consists of 35 unique canons. The book was published in 2023.
He keeps an academic approach to business that improves the consumer's well-being. In early 2022, Aaron gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
Aaron's company slogans and lawsuit funding company name are registered trademarks of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has gained positive notoriety via interviews and case studies, which are a byproduct of his successes. Aaron R. Winston was featured in a smith.ai interview (2021) and a company growth case study (2022).
In 2023, Aaron and Express Legal Funding received accolades in a leading SEO author case study performed by the leading professionals at WordLift. The in-depth data presented in the pre-settlement funding SEO case study demonstrate why Aaron Winston maintains a high-author E-E-A-T. His original writing and helpful content continue to achieve unprecedented success and stand in their own class.
Aaron was born in Lubbock, TX, where he spent the first eight years of his life. Aaron attended Akiba Academy of Dallas, TX.