fbpx

What Red, Yellow, and Green Traffic Signals Mean in Georgia

Traffic Light Rules in Georgia

Most people think they know what traffic signals mean. We learned about them in preschool, after all. Green means go, red means stop. The actual statutes laying out the meanings of traffic lights, however, are surprisingly involved.  That’s why we’re covering statutes 40-6-21 and 40-6-23 today, and discussing the responsibility of drivers to obey all the nuanced rules of traffic lights. Remember, traffic laws can be used to determine civil liability when one person hurts another on the road, because breaking a traffic law counts as negligence per se. That means that when a person breaks a traffic law, the person’s actions are automatically considered negligent, and there’s no need to argue over what a reasonable person would have done.

Green Lights

Green means go, right? Well, more or less:

40-6-21. Meaning of traffic signal indications

(a) The following meanings shall be given to highway traffic signal indications, except those on pedestrian signals:

(1) Green indications shall have the following meanings:

(A) Traffic, except pedestrians, facing a CIRCULAR GREEN signal may proceed straight through or turn right or left unless a sign at such place prohibits either such turn. Vehicular traffic turning shall yield the right of way to approaching vehicles. Vehicular traffic must stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk at the time such signal is exhibited is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching and is within one lane of the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For the purposes of this subparagraph, “half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel;

 

When facing a green light as a motorist, you’re free to continue forward through the intersection. Unless a sign says otherwise, you may also make a turn in either direction, yielding right of way to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. In a typical situation on U.S roads, oncoming traffic is only an issue for left turns, whereas pedestrians might be crossing on either side.

Drivers are often confused about what it means to yield right of way to pedestrians. A vehicle is much faster than a pedestrian, after all, so if a pedestrian is just barely stepping off the curb on the other side of the street, a turning vehicle can get in and out of the intersection before it even has a chance to get in the pedestrian’s way. On the other hand, if vehicles keep rushing through the intersection ahead of the pedestrian, the pedestrian will never feel safe enough to finish crossing. The legal cutoff for turning through an intersection in front of a pedestrian varies from place to place. In Georgia, it’s illegal to turn onto the same side of the street that a pedestrian is currently using. If the pedestrian is on the other side but moving in your direction, it’s too late to turn when the pedestrian is within one lane of the center divider or double yellow line.

 

Yellow Lights

Yellow means caution? Sort of. In most situations, a yellow light simply means that a red light is coming soon, and when it arrives, the actions that were just allowed under the green light will become illegal.

 

(2) Yellow indications shall have the following meanings:

(A) Traffic, except pedestrians, facing a steady CIRCULAR YELLOW or YELLOW ARROW signal is thereby warned that the related green movement is being terminated or that a red indication will be exhibited immediately thereafter when vehicular traffic shall not enter the intersection;

 

This allows drivers time to react and plan. If you’re too close to the intersection to stop safely before entering the crosswalk, it’s best to continue with your planned maneuver while staying alert. If you don’t expect to get across the intersection before the light turns red, it’s best to stop and respond to the red light as detailed below.

 

Red Lights

Red means stop, but it doesn’t always mean you have to stay stopped until green.

 

(3) Red indications shall have the following meanings:

(A) Traffic, except pedestrians, facing a steady CIRCULAR RED signal alone shall stop at a clearly marked stop line or, if there is no stop line, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if there is no crosswalk, before entering the intersection, and shall remain standing until an indication to proceed is shown, except as provided in subparagraphs (B), (C), and (D) of this paragraph;

(B) Vehicular traffic facing a steady CIRCULAR RED signal may cautiously enter the intersection to make a right turn after stopping as provided in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph. Such vehicular traffic shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching and is within one lane of the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For the purposes of this subparagraph, “half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel. Vehicular traffic shall yield the right of way to other traffic lawfully using the intersection;

(C) Traffic, except pedestrians, facing a steady CIRCULAR RED signal, after stopping as provided in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph, may make a right turn but shall stop and remain stopped for pedestrians and yield the right of way to other traffic proceeding as directed by the signal at such intersection. Such vehicular traffic shall not make a right turn against a steady CIRCULAR RED signal at any intersection where a sign is erected prohibiting such right turn;

(D) Traffic, except pedestrians, facing a steady CIRCULAR RED signal, after stopping as provided in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph, may make a left turn from the left-hand lane of a one-way street onto a one-way street on which the traffic moves toward the driver’s left but shall stop and remain stopped for pedestrians and yield the right of way to other traffic proceeding as directed by the signal at such intersection. Such vehicular traffic shall not make a left turn against a steady CIRCULAR RED signal at any intersection where a sign is erected prohibiting such left turn;

 

After coming to a complete stop at the crosswalk or edge of the intersection, drivers faced with a red light are allowed to make right turns, while yielding to pedestrians, as long as there are no signs saying otherwise. The rules for giving space to pedestrians are the same on red as on green.

 

There’s also one scenario where it’s okay to make a left turn on red. If you’re in the left lane of a one-way street and trying to turn left onto another one-way street, there are no more obstacles to that left turn than there would be to a right turn, so it’s safe and legal to proceed as you would with a right turn.

 

Arrows Lights

Each section of 40-6-21 detailing the meaning of a light’s color also includes a subsection on arrows of that color. Green arrows work much like green lights, except that they only give drivers permission to turn in the direction of the arrow. Other actions might be allowed at the same time, but if so, they’ll be indicated by other lights.

 

(B) Traffic, except pedestrians, facing a GREEN ARROW signal, shown alone or in combination with another indication, may cautiously enter the intersection only to make the movement indicated by such arrow or such other movement as is permitted by other indications shown at the same time. Such vehicular traffic shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk to cross the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching and is within one lane of the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For the purposes of this subparagraph, “half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel. Vehicular traffic shall yield the right of way to other traffic lawfully using the intersection; and

 

It’s important to note that drivers obeying a green arrow are still required to yield to pedestrians, even though pedestrians will rarely be allowed in the crosswalk while a green arrow is active. To be safe, it’s best to stay alert at all times while crossing an intersection and never assume that the way will be clear.

Yellow arrows usually indicate that a red arrow is coming, but they can also be used outside of the green/yellow/red sequence in their flashing form. A flashing yellow arrow indicates that drivers may turn in the direction of the arrow but should use extra caution. Usually, flashing yellow arrows are used in intersections where the chances of needing to yield to a pedestrian are high.

 

(C) Traffic, except pedestrians, facing a flashing YELLOW ARROW signal may proceed in the direction of the arrow. Vehicular traffic turning shall yield the right of way to approaching vehicles. Vehicular traffic shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk at the time such signal is exhibited, when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching and is within one lane of the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For the purposes of this subparagraph, “half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel;

 

Much like green arrows and green lights, a red arrow is a more targeted version of a red light. A red arrow only forbids turning in the direction of the arrow, but it overrules other signals, like round green lights, that would normally allow that turn.

 

(F) Traffic, except pedestrians, facing a steady RED ARROW signal may not enter the intersection to make the movement indicated by such arrow and, unless entering the intersection to make such other movement as is permitted by other indications shown at the same time, shall stop at a clearly marked stop line or, if there is no stop line, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if there is no crosswalk, before entering the intersection, and shall remain standing until an indication to make the movement indicated by such arrow is shown;

 

Red arrows pointed to the right can also flash. When this happens, drivers are allowed to turn right after stopping, but are advised to use extreme caution in watching for pedestrians.

 

(H) Traffic, except pedestrians, facing a flashing RED ARROW signal, after stopping as provided in subparagraph (A) of this paragraph, may make a right turn but shall stop and remain stopped for pedestrians and yield the right of way to other traffic proceeding as directed by the signal at such intersection.

 

Round Flashing Lights

Arrows aren’t the only traffic lights that can flash. The meaning of flashing round lights is covered in the separate but related statute, 40-6-23.

Flashing signal indications shall have the following meanings:

(1) Flashing red (stop signal) — When a red lens is illuminated with rapid intermittent flashes, drivers of vehicles shall stop at a clearly marked stop line or, if there is no stop line, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if there is no crosswalk, at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering the intersection, and the right to proceed shall be subject to the rules applicable after making a stop at a stop sign;

(2) Flashing yellow (caution signal) — When a yellow lens is illuminated with rapid intermittent flashes, drivers of vehicles may proceed through the intersection or past such signal only with caution.

 

Flashing red lights are often used when a traffic signal is out of order. This indicates that drivers must self-govern the intersection as they would at a four-way stop. Under these rules, the first vehicle to reach the intersection is the first one allowed to pass. If multiple vehicles are waiting at the intersection at the same time, turns are taken clockwise.

 

What If There’s No Intersection?

Occasionally, a traffic signal will exist without an intersection. In these cases, the rules are the same, except when there’s no way for them to apply. You can’t make a right turn onto a cross street that doesn’t exist, for example, but you can still stop at a red light and proceed on a green.

 

(b) In the event an official traffic-control device signal is erected and maintained at a place other than an intersection, the provisions of this Code section shall be applicable except as to those provisions which by their nature can have no application. Any stop required shall be made at a sign or marking on the pavement indicating where the stop shall be made, but, in the absence of any such sign or marking, the stop shall be made at the signal.

 

What About Pedestrians?

You might have noticed that most of the rules regarding traffic lights say “except for pedestrians.” That’s because pedestrians have their own rules when faced with green lights:

 

(C) Unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian signal, pedestrians facing any green indication, except when the sole green indication is a turn arrow, may proceed across the roadway within any marked or unmarked crosswalk;

 

Yellow lights:

 

(B) Pedestrians facing a steady CIRCULAR YELLOW or YELLOW ARROW signal, unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian signal, are thereby advised that there is insufficient time to cross the roadway before a red indication is shown, and no pedestrian shall then start to cross the roadway; and

 

Red lights:

 

(E) Unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian signal, pedestrians facing a steady CIRCULAR RED signal alone shall not enter the roadway;

 

And red arrows:

 

(G) Unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian signal, pedestrians facing a steady RED ARROW signal shall not enter the roadway;

 

Basically, when determining what pedestrians are and aren’t allowed to do, any signal aimed specifically at pedestrians, such as “walk” and “don’t walk” lights, takes precedence over traffic signals aimed at cars. If there are no signals aimed at pedestrians, the only legal time to cross is when the round, green light is visible. Flashing red light scenarios are an exception, and drivers should expect to yield to pedestrians as they would at a four-way stop.

 

What Damages Can You Recover If Someone Disobeys a Traffic Light?

Traffic lights are designed to protect the public safety, so if someone disregards them, that person’s behavior is automatically negligent under negligence per se. Whether the person who ignored the light ran into someone directly, or whether they caused an accident by forcing other drivers to swerve or brake, that person is responsible for any injuries. Any settlement awarded for those injuries will be divided into “special damages” and “general damages.”

 

 “Special” Damages Cover the Things Money Can Buy

Medical care, vehicle replacement, and lost wages would all fall into the category of special damages. These are the losses a victim suffers that can be counted on a balance sheet, and special damages are awarded to counteract that financial burden. To collect special damages, you’ll need documentation of each expense, and you’ll also need to prove that those expenses were directly or “proximately” caused by the negligent driver. To learn more about direct and proximate cause, click here.

 

 “General” Damages Cover the Things It Can’t

Not all losses are so easily measured. Pain, stress, psychological harm, and the disappointment of missing out on your favorite activities because of your injuries are all common after-effects of a traffic accident that have no defined monetary value. A good lawyer will help you win a settlement that includes general damages — money awarded to help make up for these intangible kinds of losses.

 

What If Someone Died in the Accident?

If your case is about the loss of a loved, it’s classified as wrongful death, not personal injury. The Wetherington Law Firm proudly covers wrongful death cases as well, but they do have their own rules you’ll need to be aware of. Click here to learn more about wrongful death.

 

Why Do I Need a Lawyer?

Litigation is a complicated and stressful process that’s always easier with a knowledgeable advocate in your corner. In cases involving insurance companies, it’s especially important to have an expert on your side to help you deal with trick questions that can ruin your chances of recovering a fair settlement. The Wetherington Law Firm has plenty of experience with traffic accident cases and auto insurance companies, so we know how to avoid the traps.

 

How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta

When you work with the Wetherington Law Firm, you pay nothing up front, and nothing at all until/unless we win. We work solely on a contingency basis, which means our only payment comes out of the settlements we win for our clients. With us, you don’t have to worry about being forced to drop a legitimate case just because you’re being outspent.

 

The Wetherington Law Firm Uses the Law to Change the World for the Better

Is there more to your case than one bad driver? If you believe that what happened to you is indicative of a deeper problem, we’ll be happy to work with you to make a real difference for others in your situation. We’ll investigate potentially unsafe intersections and dig into the training procedures of companies employing unsafe drivers, all while fighting for a fair settlement to get you back on your feet. To learn more about how we can help you find justice for others as well as yourself, give us a call today!

 

 

 

Have You Been Injured by Someone Who Ran a Redlight?

Call us today. We will help you understand what insurance policies are available to you, how much you can recover, and whether you need a lawyer. There is no cost to you for our conversation and if you decide to hire us, there is no fee unless we win your case.

Contact