Wisconsin Department of Transportation

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Red light running

Red signal light
Running a red light is no joke

Running a red light is no joke. Many people are killed or badly injured each year because someone cruised through a red light.

You may be in a hurry, you may think the light doesn't stay green long enough. Whatever your excuse, it's no reason to endanger the lives of other motorists, passengers, pedestrians or bicyclists who may be in that intersection.

The law is clear on how you must behave at traffic signals:

Green

Traffic facing a green signal may proceed straight through or turn right or left unless a sign prohibits either turn. Even with a green light, you should yield the right-of-way to other vehicles and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or a crosswalk.

Yellow

When you see a yellow light with or following the green light, you should stop before entering the intersection unless you're so close to it that a stop may not be made safely. A yellow light does NOT mean it's time to speed up and race through the intersection. That's how people get killed.

Red

Traffic facing a red signal must stop before entering the crosswalk or before entering the intersection and must remain stopped until the light changes to green or some other signal permitting movement such as a green arrow.

Right turn on red/left turn on red

Traffic facing a red signal at an intersection may, after stopping, cautiously enter the intersection to make a right turn into the nearest lane for traffic moving to the right or to turn left from a one-way highway into the nearest lane of a one-way highway on which traffic travels to the left.

Important: No turn may be made on a red signal if it means crossing lanes of moving traffic or if a sign at the intersection prohibits a turn. On making a turn on a red signal, you must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and bicyclists and other traffic lawfully using the intersection.

Green arrow

Traffic facing a green arrow signal may enter the intersection only to make the movement indicated by the arrow. But even with the green arrow, you must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and bicyclists and to other traffic lawfully using the intersection. When the green arrow signal indicates a right or left turn traffic, cautiously enter the intersection.

Flashing lights

  • Flashing red (stop signal)
    When a red light is flashing, vehicles must stop before proceeding. A flashing red signal acts in much the same way as a stop sign.
  • Flashing yellow (caution signal)
    When a yellow light is flashing, vehicles may proceed through the intersection cautiously.

Questions about the content of this page:
Jill Benkert, jill.benkert@dot.wi.gov
Last modified: April 12, 2012

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