What Does A Flashing Red Light Mean?

Steven March 31, 2020 0 Comments

Let us take a look at an imaginary scenario: We are driving maddeningly fast, sneakingly peeking at our watch while trying to concetrate on the road. We are late, and we have to hurry. And boom! A safety sign stops us. We curse. We are now gonna be late. If this thought process sounds familiar, be at ease, road warrior. You are not the only one to get annoyed at traffic and safety signs. In fact, we have all felt like that at one point or another in our lives.

What is vital to realize, however, is that those understandable feelings – nobody wants to be late on their dates or appointments – should never carry over in our lives after the moment has passed. Driving, apparently, has never been more dangerous than it is nowadays. According to data, there has been a notable increase in car accidents over the past few years. Paying our respects to driving laws and regulations, along with having a thorough knowledge and understanding of the various traffic and safety signs is a necessity in order to stay safe.

And it all begins with learning how to recognise the traffic lights.


As annoying as they may often be, traffic lights are the very things that will keep you safe and unharmed on the road, whether you are driving or walking on the road. We will start by reviewing the most common steady traffic lights:

  • ​Green Steady Light: A green light signifies that you are able to turn left, go straight or turn right after first yielding to vehicles and passengers already in the interection. When turning left or right, you must yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing the intersection.
  • ​Yellow Steady Light: A steady yellow light urges caution – the light will soon turn red. If you cannot safely stop, you should proceed carefully through the intersection before it turns red. If capable, you should stop.
  • ​Red Steady Light: When approaching an intersection, you have to stop before the pedestrian crosswalk. You must bring your vehicle to a complete stop right before the stop line. If no stop line is marked on the road, you have to stop at the crosswalk regardless. You are clear to move when the light changes back to green.
  • ​In cases where a steady green arrow appears simultaneously with a steady red light, you are free to proceed towards the direction the arrow is pointing at, after first yielding to pedestrians and drivers that have the right of way.


Other than the aforementioned steady lights, you will also encounter their flashing light counterparts. Generally, the flash encourages extra caution from the driver’s part. Again, these are divided by color. Each color has a different meaning:

  • ​Green Flashing Light: The driver is obligated to approach in a way that allows for a timely stop, should a stop be necessary before they reach the crosswalk or the light signal. They are  then required to yield to passing pedesrians.
  • ​Yellow Flashing Light: A driver facing a yellow flashing light has to enter the intersection or pass the signal only with caution, yielding to pedestrians along the way.
  • ​In both cases, pedestrians can only cross the crosswalk in the same manner they would if the signals were of a flashing red light.


And now comes the red flashing light’s thorough explanation, the focus of this article. What are you supposed to do when faced with a flashing red light? The answer depends heavily on where you live.

When it comes to the United States, you should treat a flashing red light exactly the same way as if it were a stop sign. A stop sign is used to control conflicting traffic movements at intersections. Whenever you see a stop sign at any corner or intersection, you MUST stop and proceed only if the way ahead is completely clear, and only after obeying any rules and laws regarding right of way.

Whether you are faced with a red flashing light or a stop sign, you must come to a complete stop. You are only eligible to move through the intersection after it is completely safe to do so. If it is a 4-way flashing red, you should allow the first vehicle to enter the intersection go first. If you have both reached the intersection at the same time, you have to yield to the right most vehicle and rotate to the left each time.

You should also take note, that in cases were there is ongoing road work, sometimes the signals are made to flash red. Alternatively, they are turned off and flaggers are placed at the intersections. In these cases, you should abide by the provided instructions of said flaggers.


To summarize, driving on the road takes a lot of responsibility. Even though it may seem bothersome and tiring, you would do well to study and learn all the laws, rules and regulations of the road, as well as learn how to recognise and interpret the various traffic signs and lights. This mental exercise will keep you safe when driving and, perhaps even more importantly, will minimize chances of you accidentally hitting others by mistake or lack of knowledge.

The most common traffic lights can be divided by two different criteria. First, by their color – green, yellow and red. And second, by the way they appear: Steady or flashing. One of the most important lights for an aspiring driver to learn how to recognise is the red flashing light.

A red flashing light is, essentially, the traffic light equivalent of the stop sign. Whenever you encounter a red flashing light on the road, you are obligated to come to a complete stop. You are only allowed to proceed when the way ahead is completely clear, and moving forward is completely safe. Failing to do so is not only dangerous but also highly irresponsible.

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