Drive Safely by Understanding Traffic Signals

by Jim Thompson | Last Updated: December 16, 2020

Driving a car without knowing the meaning of posted signs or signals is dangerous. You could make huge mistakes that put other people and yourself at risk. That’s why it’s important to take the time to learn how to read traffic signals. They’re pretty simple after you understand what they mean, but until you take the time to do so, you could make some potentially hazardous mistakes while driving.

Types of Traffic Light Signals

There are two different types of traffic signals, those with solid lights and those with blinking lights. Each has its own meaning, and it’s important that you know how to read both types.

Solid Lights

Solid lights are commonly referred to as stop or traffic lights, and they are found at intersections all over the country. These solid lights come in three different colors, and you have to know what each of them means to drive safely.

Red Light – When you have a solid red light it means that you have to stop and wait for the light to change. Do not drive through a solid red light or you might be struck by a moving vehicle. This is one of the most important signals for you to know and one always to be on the lookout for.

Yellow Light – A solid yellow light means that the light is transitioning from green to red and that you have to take caution. You should slow down to make a stop if you are approaching the light, or you should drive through with caution if you are very close to the light when it changes to yellow. Just be careful that you stop if you are too far back because you can receive a ticket for driving through a light that turns to red halfway through.

Green Light – This is the exact opposite of a solid red. When you see a solid green it means that you are free to go through the light without slowing down. Don’t make the mistake of stopping abruptly when you see one of these lights or the people behind you might run into you if they aren’t paying attention or are following too closely.

Flashing Lights

Flashing lights come in the same colors as solid ones, but the driving behavior you should use around them is a little different.

Red Flashing Light – A flashing red light functions as a stop sign. As with a stop sign, approach the light, come to a complete stop and then, when clear, drive through it. It’s common for both directions at the intersection to be governed by these lights so that it functions as a 4-way stop.

Yellow Flashing Light – A flashing yellow light means that you should be cautious. A flashing yellow might be present to indicate a blind spot ahead or other road feature that would require slowing down. Just drive carefully through these areas and pay close attention to any changes in the driving environment.

Now that you know what the different traffic lights mean, you can drive more safely and avoid causing potential problems for other drivers. For the safest performance, take your time and think about what you are doing as you drive.