Skip to main content

Flashing Traffic Signals

Posted in

Traffic Signal Warning SignA 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, but the law set out in the Motor Vehicle Act is more descriptive. Let's examine each case and see what is required.

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.

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.

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.


It would be good ...

... if municipalities in BC were forced (by over-riding provincial legislation) to employ flashing green (i.e. pedestrian-controlled) lights the way they were originally intended back when they were introduced circa 1960.

That is, for mid-block use only (NOT at an intersection) where there is a need/demand for pedestrians to cross the road without having to walk to the nearest intersection.

That way, these devices can best accommodate all road users to get where they're going safely and efficiently; once the pedestrians are out of the way, drivers can continue without hanging around needlessly.

Flashing green traffic lights at intersections - where there are Stop signs facing the drivers on the cross street - have devolved into a confusing mess, with almost constant legal infractions both by pedestrians who walk on the main road in defiance of the solid red light; and drivers who belt through the Stop signs when they think they see a brief opportunity to cross or turn onto the main road.

It's all wrong.  Where are the cops?  Where are the bylaws officers?  Where are the Traffic Engineers who understand how this stuff is supposed to work?  Sheesh.



Flashing traffic lights

I am lucky enough to be able to spend winter in Baja, Mexico. Many of the traffic lights here have an additional feature: a "stale" green will flash 4 times before turning amber (takes about 3 seconds). I like this feature very much, as it gives me time to prepare to stop without slamming on my brakes. Alternately, it also lets me know that I have a few seconds before it changes, and can better assess the risk of entering the intersection on an amber. Certainly, there are those poor drivers who will speed up, but I believe there would be more drivers who would lift their foot.

Google Ads