Green means go. Red means stop. Yellow means prepare to stop. 

But what about a flashing yellow light? Talk about a mixed signal!

A flashing yellow is not a warning that a red light is coming, but it’s still a warning. Rather than alerting you that you need to prepare to stop, it’s altering you to slow down and pay extra attention to your surroundings. 

Here’s how you should handle this particular traffic signal.  

  1. Realize that a flashing yellow light means you have the right-of-way.
  2. As you approach a flashing yellow light, reduce your speed and watch for other vehicles who may not respect or be aware of your right-of-way. 
  3. When you have confirmed it’s safe to proceed, continue driving with caution. 

What about a flashing yellow arrow? 

Flashing yellow arrows are becoming more widely used, partly because one study found that they help drivers navigate left turns in busy intersections more safely. 

A flashing yellow arrow signals to you that you can turn in the direction of the arrow after yielding to pedestrians and other vehicles that are in the intersection. 

If the flashing yellow arrow is pointing left to allow a left turn or a U-turn, follow these steps: 

  1. Yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. 
  2. When the crosswalk is free of pedestrians, you may enter the intersection slightly, just as you would for a green light. 
  3. Yield to any oncoming vehicles approaching from the opposite direction. 
  4. Complete your turn when it’s safe to do so.  

What about a flashing red light? 

You should treat flashing red lights the exact same way you treat a stop sign. Come to a complete stop, check the intersection and yield to others who have arrived before you, then proceed when it’s safe to do so. 

One thing to be aware of is that some intersections will have a flashing red light in one direction and a flashing yellow going the other direction. Just as you would in any other driving situation, drive alert, use caution and, just as important, show courtesy to other drivers, so we can all share the road safely. 

Do you have more questions about traffic signals and rules? We help you make sense of them all at Stop and Go Driving School. Learn about our driver’s education and defensive driving courses and contact us to learn more. We’re here to help you stay as safe as possible out on the roads.