Rule About Driving Through and Intersection with a Yellow Light

Updated on September 05, 2008
M.T. asks from Frisco, TX
10 answers

I am looking for someone to help me with the yellow light traffic rule. If a traffic light is yellow, when can you drive through it before it turns red? How much of your car has to be in the intersection before it turns red? I have received one of those red light camera tickets but my entire car was clearly in the intersection (on the other side of the crosswalk) when the light turned red. I can fight the ticket but will be charged even more if found liable so I wanted to get make sure that I am in the right.

1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

  • Add your own comment
  • Ask your own question
  • Join the Mamapedia community
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Thanks so much for all that responded with factual and non-judgemental advice. I was there and know what happened and know that I am in the right. I wasn't speeding (my speed was shown on the picture) or trying to race the light. I don't agree with people that run red lights and I see it all the time. I however don't risk other people's lives by running red lights. These cameras are under fire in many neighboring cities and for good reason. So thanks so much for the helpful advice.

More Answers



answers from Dallas on

This article is about the Red light camera's in TX. It is from the Texas House of Representatives.

Check out the section on how the red light camera's work. (Pg. 7)

It says that the sensors are connected to a computer, to both the traffic signal and underground electrical wires that only turn on the camera's when a vehicle enters the intersection AFTER the light turns red. If a vehicle is already in the intersection, waiting to turn left for example, it would not trigger the sensor and the camera would not come on.

There is also other information in the article.

Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

If the light is yellow, you are not supposed to enter the intersection unless it is unsafe for you to stop. If it turns yellow while you are already in the intersection, you are fine. As far as fighting the ticket, if you have time to spare, you have probably a 50% chance of winning. You just need to request a trial. Explain your side of the story and see what happens. It may take more time and waiting than you expect though and may not be worth your while if you work and will have to take time off to fight it. I have heard that the City of Dallas is trying to take out all of the red light cameras. I think the reason is that they promoted people braking too quickly, and therefore causing rear-end accidents. You may want to google that issue and present it in court.
By the way, just because you were in the intersection on a yellow light does not necessarily mean you were driving recklessly or carelessly. It depends entirely on the circumstances. I have read some of the responses to your message and some are simply too judgmental for not having even been in your shoes. Shame on those people.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

If your car was in the intersection when the light turned red, you more than likely had plenty of time to stop when it was yellow. Unless you were speeding, of course. Pay your ticket - you broke the law. People get hurt and killed ALL the time by people whose cars were in the intersection when the light turned red; in other words, people who were running a red light.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I was told once, if you can see the light turn red as you go under it, then you should have stopped. It is a hard call because I have been rear ended from stopping for a yellow that the car behind me wanted to go throug

Is there anyway to find out your chances of winning if you fight it? Even if you know you were right, if you chances of winning are not good, it is not worth the battle.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I had a friend in California who successfully argued a red light camera ticket. She went back to the intersection and timed how long the light was yellow before turning red and was able to prove it was significantly shorter at that intersection than at others in the same area. (and by the way - this was a major issue in california - investigations were launched into whether or not they had actually shortened the yellow time so they could 'catch" more people - I moved before the findings were released) so maybe if you really want to fight it, you could try to do a few studies like that and present your research. Good luck!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I think if the camera caught you in the intersection, then you were in the wrong. I have to agree with some of the other responses.

I see too, too many people blatently run the red lights (not that I think you were intentionally running it b/c I too have gone through a yellow light and the light turned red on me and I'm sure everyone has at one time or another).

I think the red light cameras are a good thing. The red light runners have got to stop doing that. It's just dangerous and reckless driving. There is no excuse for that. Maybe receiving a few tickets will stop those red light runners, otherwise, they are just going to keep doing it. Personally, I think it's better to get a ticket than get killed in a car accident.

My advice would just be to slow down and prepare to stop when you see a yellow light so that this won't happen to you again.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I don't know how you can tell where your car actually was when the light turned red. I have never received one of those tickets, so I don't know if it shows multiple shots or just the one. If it only shows one image, you have no recourse in court because the image may not have been taken the moment the light turned. It is just taken where they can get an image of your license plate.

As for the rule, you have the right to go through the light when it is yellow. Yellow is a warning that the light will soon turn red and that you should slow down. As long as the light doesn't turn red before your car enters the intersection, you are in the right.

I don't know if it is worth fighting. That would be your call. Good luck!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

From the Tx Driving Handbook regarding steady yellow lights-
Caution—red light coming up! You must STOP before entering the nearest
crosswalk at the intersection, if you can do so safely. If a stop cannot be
made safely, you may proceed cautiously through the intersection before the
light changes to red.

I have been driving in this state for forty years and it has always been that you must be out of the intersection before it turns red. Of course if the yellow light is too short (meaning from the time it changes you cannot make it through the intersection). If you have just entered the intersection and it turns red you can receive a ticket. Hope this helps. It is not a matter of judgement but law....if you were just in the intersection and going the speed limit as you stated, and the yellow light is not too broke the law as you are to be completely out of the intersection before it turns red........I am sorry this happened to you but glad there was no accident.



answers from Dallas on

google or ask a professional to find out more...
yellow lights as a rule are supposed to be timed for the posted speed of the road to safely clear the intersection before the other drivers get a green light.
yellow light timed 1 second for each 10 mph..for example: speed limit of 30 = 3 seconds

When you enter without stopping at an intersection (front tires cross the painted white line or mark of the intersection if there is one) after the light turns red, you have ran it.
If you crossed the line but you stopped before you entered the intersection, you did not run it.
If you are already in the intersection, you didn't enter it after the light turned red.
The pictures will prove if you ran the light or if you were clearing the intersection.

and also.....if you cross the painted white line at a stop sign or if there is no line and you pass the stop sign before you completely stop, you have ran the stop sign.

just my two cents worth. :o)



answers from Dallas on

I am so sorry! I am the last person you want to hear from, I am sure!! So stop reading now. Tee hee. This is just a friendly opinion--really!! :)

Yellow light means "Cautious", slow down and stop now. It does not mean speed up and try to race the light and make it through risking other people's lives. If you can see the light turn red while you are in the intersection, you could easily have stopped during the yellow light--unless it was a super short yellow.

Sorry! My mother and two year old brother were both killed in a car accident from a careless driver. I am one of those who finds no excuse for careless driving, driving while tired, driving under the influence, etc... There are FAR to many red light runners out there. I have witnessed quite a few who were just entering the intersection when my light was green and I had already started moving. If these red light cameras save even one life, they are worth it.

Only you know, in your conscience, if you truly made very possible safe attempt to stop or if you were in a hurry and were hoping to get away with it. The letter of the law and whether or not you are 'legally' in the right really doesn't matter if in your heart you know you were really racing the light.

If you have wrongly been accused, then go for it!

I am sorry again!! I am not meaning to upset anybody. :) Just my thoughts--valid or not. Only you know if you are in the right!


Next question: What to Do About a Ticket