Dealing with mixed signals

A motorist will encounter three types of flashing traffic signals, red, yellow, and green. Learn to Drive Smart, BC's Safe Driving Guide gives examples of each situation on page 37, but the law set out in the Motor Vehicle Act is more descriptive. Let's examine each case and see what is required.

Flashing Green:

This is a pedestrian controlled light.

A driver facing a flashing green light must approach so that they are able to stop, should a stop be necessary, before reaching the crosswalk or the signal as the case may be. They must then yield to pedestrians, again in the manner specified for a flashing red light.

Pedestrians may cross at both types of signals in the same manner as at a flashing red light.

Flashing Yellow:

A driver facing a flashing yellow light must enter the intersection or pass the signal not at an intersection only with caution, yielding to pedestrians in the same manner as a flashing red light requires.

Flashing Red:

A driver facing a flashing red light at an intersection must stop before the marked stop line or crosswalk. If neither marking is present, then the stop must be made before entering the intersection. Once stopped, you may not proceed until it is safe to do so.

If the flashing red light is not at an intersection, the driver must stop in the same manner if a stop line or crosswalk is present. If not, then the stop must be made before reaching the signal. What is different here is the requirement to have regard for the safety of pedestrian traffic on the roadway or in a crosswalk in the vicinity of the signal.

A pedestrian facing a flashing red light may proceed to cross with caution using the crosswalk at an intersection or cross the roadway when not at an intersection.

Flashing Green with a Steady Green:

A flashing green arrow with a steady green light tells drivers that they may turn in the direction of the arrow or proceed straight though, depending on their intention.

Flashing Green with a Steady Red:

A flashing green arrow with a steady red light means that the turn is allowed but through traffic must remain stopped.

Lane Control Signals

These signals may also flash and are shown above the highway lanes where the direction of the lane changes depending on the signal settings. An example of this would be the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver where there are two lanes inbound and one lane outbound in the morning and two lanes outbound and one lane inbound in the afternoons. The center lane changes direction around mid-day.

Flashing Green:

Drive in this lane

Flashing Yellow:

Move out of this lane into a lane marked with a green arrow.

If all lanes are showing a flashing yellow light, slow down and proceed with caution.

Flashing Red:

Do not drive in this lane. It is showing a green arrow for traffic coming toward you.

This article also appears on DriveSafeBC.

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

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