Traffic lights are very important signs to help organize traffic flow. As a driver, you need to understand what each light represents so you can react appropriately.
In general, a red light means stop, a yellow light means caution (not drive faster) and a green light means go (yes, a green lights means go, unless there are pedestrians). Sometimes these traffic lights can be a little different. For example, lights could be flashing, or if there’s an arrow pointing a certain direction.
This week, we are specifically talking about red lights.
When the light is a solid red or steady red, this means come to a complete full stop. Make sure when you are stopping and that you are behind the first white line. After you come to a complete stop, you are allowed to make a right turn (if it is safe) or a left turn onto a one-way street if a sign doesn’t prohibit you from doing so.
When choosing to make a right on a red, be extremely careful because there are a lot of factors to consider. Remember that pedestrians have the right of way. Check for cars coming from the left in all lanes, not just the one closest to you, because you never know if someone changes lanes in the middle of the intersection into your lane. Also, check for cars across from you turning left. To be safe, do two shoulder checks before making your turn.
Keep in mind that you are not obligated to make a right on a red. Sometimes you’re better off waiting for a green light instead. There have been many times while teaching where I had to stop my student from proceeding because they neglected to check all of the items I discussed above.
Recently, a driving student decided to make a right turn on a red without checking for cars coming from the left, and sure enough there was a car coming down the hill at 60-70 kph and almost collided with us. There was another time when my student turned right and neglected to observe the oncoming vehicle who wanted to turn left. This oncoming vehicle had the advanced left turn arrow and had the right of way. These are just a couple examples of what could go wrong, so please make sure you work with your driving instructor closely to make sure you do it safely and confidently.
Flashing red light means come to a complete full stop. Again, stop behind the first white line, and then proceed when it is safe to do so.
As mentioned before, there are times where a sign prohibits you from turning right on a red light. Typically, this sign is located directly beside the traffic light. I still see my students overlook this sign. Keep sharp and don’t make that mistake! Look further ahead.
I often find myself reminding my students to full stop at red lights or needing to step in and assist them in braking. If you’re a new driver, work on better anticipating red lights and braking smoothly.
Pro tip: Use the pedestrian timer to aid you in anticipating red lights. Yes, not all timers count down accurately, but they are still helpful. Your instructor will give you strategies so you don’t freak out when the light turns yellow and then red.
Be safe out there! And again, red light means stop!