Red Traffic Light – Super Important FAQs [2023]

What does the red traffic light mean?

The steady red traffic light means that you must stop your vehicle. After you come to a full and complete stop – and if it is safe – you may turn right in British Columbia and most other Canadian places, or turn left in British Columbia if it’s onto a one-way street unless a road sign forbids it.

Red traffic light Canada

What are the 3 traffic lights?

Traffic lights are a type of traffic control device that are used to help organize traffic flow. Generally speaking, the red light means “stop,” the yellow light means “caution” and the green light means “go.” These traffic lights – also known as traffic signals – can have slightly different meanings when they are flashing. They can also mean something slightly different when they are shaped like arrows rather than circles. In some places green arrows may flash; in others, they may not.

what are the 3 traffic lights

Why do we stop at red lights?

Our roads and communities have gotten a lot larger over time, and stop signs are no longer sufficient for controlling larger intersections. That is why we must stop at red lights; so that other road users, including pedestrians, may have a turn to move through the intersection.

Can you turn left on a red light in BC?

In British Columbia, you can only turn left on a red light if it’s from a two-way street onto a one-way street. However, no Canadian provinces allow you to turn left on a red light if it’s onto a two-way street. This is kind of the point of red lights and green lights. Keep in mind that not all drivers and pedestrians will know turning left at a red light might be legal, so be prepared for the possible confusion of other road users if you do it. Check out our article to learn more about turning left on a red light.

When may you turn right on a red light?

You may turn right on a red light if:

no turning right on a red light

What happens if you cross a red traffic light?

Going through or “running a red light” is extremely dangerous and could result in injury or death to you or other road users. If you get caught by a red light camera or police, you can be fined. The ICBC ticket for running a red light costs $167 and 2 penalty points on your driver’s license. You can read more about ICBC Penalty Points on our blog. You might also be asked to go on an educational course if you’re caught running through a red light at an intersection. ICBC Fines & Penatly Points (ICBC) Opens in a new tab.

Which traffic light tells us to stop?

A red light at an intersection means you must stop your vehicle immediately before the intersection or stopping line and not proceed until you have a green light. In addition, if you are driving and your light goes yellow, you’re required to similarly stop before the intersection, unless the stop cannot be safely made in time. You can read more about yellow lights on our blog.

Flashing red traffic lights Canada

Flashing red traffic lights in Canada means that you must stop, and not proceed until it is safe, yielding to relevant traffic and other road users, similar to a stop sign. They can sometimes be found at intersections alone, or intersections that also have stop signs. Sometimes this is done on purpose when the stop sign is difficult to see due to visibility issues such as curves, hills, shrubs, etc.

After how long can you go through a red light if it doesn’t turn green?

Please don’t! If your light is staying red forever, it probably means you aren’t on the traffic sensor and you may need to roll forward or roll back a bit.

Traffic lights don’t just randomly change; they change because someone wants them to.  These sensors let the intersection lights know that you exist, so make sure you stop in the correct stopping position over the sensor.  

If you stop too far forward, or too far behind the sensor, your traffic light might stay red forever. If this happens, you may need to roll forward or backward just a bit.

Traffic sensors in a left-turn lane

If your traffic light is staying red forever, it probably means one of the vehicles needs to move forward or move backward a bit so they’re on the sensor!!!!!! Spread the word, tell your friends and tell your neighbors.

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If there’s no traffic, can I go through a red light?

No. This is the whole idea behind having traffic lights, isn’t it?

Even if there is no traffic, you can not go straight through a red light (unless you’re at a red light that is located somewhere other than at an intersection, and you’ve stopped first).

You can turn right on a red light after you stop if it’s safe and if there are no turning restriction signs.

You can turn left on a red light after you stop, if it’s safe, and if you are turning onto a one-way street.

If you’re at a red light that seems to be staying red for an unreasonable amount of time, you may not be on the traffic sensor. You may need to move your vehicle forward a few inches or back a few inches to activate the sensor. But do not simply go through a red light.

Carmen Cohoe

Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in beautiful North Vancouver, BC, and taught many drivers for almost a decade including brand new drivers, drivers from various countries, and seniors, using automatic & standard vehicles and a minivan. She created BC Driving Blog in 2012.

11 thoughts on “Red Traffic Light – Super Important FAQs [2023]

  1. The sensors are infamous for failing to detect many motorcycles especially now since bikes continue to become lighter. My 300 will not activate 2 traffic lights in New Westminster. In fact my motorcycle instructor warned the class about this – and he’s a retired VPD Motorcycle cop. I personally just proceed through the red and if i am pulled over i hope my explanation is accepted.

  2. This answer completely forgets about the possibility of a motorist whose vehicle is too small to trigger the sensor. I’ve had to wait for many minutes at multiple lights because my vehicle wasn’t registered. I was directly on top of the sensor. What should I do?

    1. Unless you got your car from Toy’s ‘R’ Us and it takes ‘AA’ batteries, then your car is not too small for the sensors! Well you said vehicle. What kind of vehicle exactly are we talking about? Is it a bicycle?Traffic sensors were made for traffic!! You can not always see the sensors because sometimes they’re under the pavement. You might still not quite be in the correct position. No offence but are you sure you know exactly where your car is on the road? A lot of people aren’t exactly quite where they think they are.

      Read more here: http://www.wallacedrivingschool.com/road-sensors-can-trigger-driver-angst/

      1. motorcycle. i have a light near a friend’s house that consistently doesn’t recognize my bike and I usually end up waiting for a break in traffic and running the red. I know exactly where my bike sits on the road, and it didn’t come from toys’r’us. how about a response that answers the original (and valid) question?

        1. Sorry wasn’t trying to be rude just meant that they’re supposed to work, even for motorcycles. Have you seen this clip made for bicycles but may be helpful to you? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sj-mNB6dLkk&noredirect=1

          Can you actually see the sensor loop on the pavement or is it hidden under? Which intersection is this, perhaps I can investigate?

          1. Klahanie Drive and murray st in Port moody. Klahanie meets Murray in 2 places and both sensors seem pretty useless.

            1. Hmm, and are you driving onto the sensor like how the bike does in the vid?

              1. Placing magnets on and under a bike or small or plasticy car will greatly help on the loops. They work on magnetic principles as do metal detectors. The magnets will help create a larger field the loops can sense better and faster, therefore, triggering the light faster.

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