Driving Tips: The True Meaning of The Yellow Traffic Light


There seems to be a lot of confusion about yellow traffic lights.

If you are just driving along and your light goes yellow, it means “Stop” unless you can not safely stop in time (ie if you are “past the point of no return” or if it is not safe to stop).

  • Why would you not be able to stop in time?
  • If, by stopping, you think you would risk being rear-ended because the vehicle behind you is too close then you should keep going.
  • However, if you get into a collision you must prove that it was unsafe to stop for your yellow light.
  • And I’m not sure how you would do that, so it is best to avoid speeding, anticipate traffic lights changing and be prepared.
  • Check your rear-view mirror well in advance of the intersection.


If you are turning right or left at an intersection, the same rules apply.


If the light goes yellow on approach then you should stop behind the white line as long as it is safe to do so.

  • Yes you may be able to turn right on a red light, or left on a red light if turning onto a one way street, but legally you MUST STOP first if you are facing a yellow light or a red light and yield to those with green lights.


If you’re turning left or right at an intersection and you have already entered into the intersection when the light was green, and then it changes to yellow, then it is a different story; you must then clear the intersection when it is safe, regardless of the traffic light colour.


How can you tell if the light will change to yellow soon? See this post: How to tell if the light will change soon



Q: If my light is yellow, what colour is the light for the traffic facing me? 

Typically it will also be yellow. It will either be yellow or red, but never green. If you’re not sure about the traffic light patterns, the best thing to do would be to stand or park near an intersection and observe the patterns for a while.