A yellow light primer

September 13, 2013
(Daniel Britt - THE WASHINGTON POST)
(Daniel Britt/The Washington Post)

My story this week about D.C.’s plan to more than double the number of traffic enforcement cameras in the city drew a variety of responses, but also raised a number of questions from alert Post readers.

I promised to find answers to two of the most popular queries: yellow lights and pedestrian crossings.

 

Yellow lights

Some readers wanted clarification on the laws regarding yellow lights. If they went through a yellow light at an intersection, could they be ticketed?

According to the except of D.C. law forwarded by D.C. police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump, the yellow light signals to the driver that a red light is imminent and drivers should attempt to stop unless it is unsafe to do so. So it sounds like if you run a yellow light you run the risk of being ticketed unless you can make a sound argument that it would have been more dangerous for you to stop. If you do get caught, the fine is $50.  One thing to note: Photo enforcement (i.e. red light cameras) do not issue yellow light violations.

Here is the excerpt sent by Crump:

DCMR Title 18

2103 TRAFFIC CONTROL SIGNALS: VEHICLES

2103.5 A STEADY YELLOW SIGNAL alone shall have the following meaning:

(a) Vehicular traffic facing a steady yellow signal is thereby warned that a related green signal is being terminated or that a red signal will be exhibited thereafter, or both; and

(b) Vehicular traffic shall stop before entering the nearest crosswalk of the intersection, unless so close to the intersection that a stop cannot safely be made.

2103.6 A STEADY YELLOW ARROW shall have the following meaning:

(a) Vehicular traffic facing the signal is warned that vehicular movement in the direction that the arrow is pointing is about to be terminated by means of a steady full red, a steady red arrow, or simply by the green arrow being turned off; and

(b) Vehicular traffic shall stop before entering the nearest crosswalk at the intersection, unless so close to the intersection that a stop cannot be made safely.

Pedestrians, crosswalks and cars

With the addition of 16 pedestrian cameras to D.C.’s automated enforcement arsenal, readers also sought clarification on the rules about whether they could be ticketed if they made a right or left turn while a pedestrian was in the crosswalk. Do drivers wanting to make a right or left turn have to wait until the pedestrians have completely cleared the crosswalk?

No. According to the recently amended law that went into effect in May, it appears it is okay for drivers to make a turn as long as the pedestrian is not in the lane or the lane next to the lane in which the turn is being made. If I’m interpreting this correctly (and I have gone back to Crump for clarification — update, this interpretation is accurate), you can make that  turn as long as the pedestrian is not in the lane or the lane next to the lane where you’re making your turn.

Again, the except forwarded by Crump:

Pursuant to the Safety-Based Traffic Enforcement Amendment Act of 2012, effective May 1, 2013:

“(a) The driver of a vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within any marked crosswalk, or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection when the pedestrian is upon the lane, or within one lane approaching the lane, on which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning.

If you’ve got more questions, feel free to post below and I’ll do my best to find answers.

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.
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