March 14, 2007

When is it okay to jump a red light?

Picture the situation: you are stopped at roadworks by temporary lights showing red. You can see past the lights for some distance, say half a mile, and there is nothing in view coming the other way.

Would you drive past the red light?

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  1. Sharon Tuersley

    No, I wouldn’t but I’d really want to…

    14 Mar 2007, 11:25

  2. Interesting behavioural question! Assuming it was certain that there were no hidden entrances in that half-mile ahead, and good daylight visibility etc., the honest answer is that I’d probably go – but only if I was the only car waiting and the roadworks were unmanned. If there were workmen or other drivers around, I’d sit there.

    It would also make a difference to me whether I’d just seen them go red, whether I knew that the hold on red was a particularly long one, but that’s probably getting a bit deep.

    14 Mar 2007, 11:42

  3. Mathew Mannion

    I think I’d almost certainly sit there, to be honest. The pace of life just needs to slow down a little, so that waiting at temporarily traffic lights for 30 seconds or so no longer seems like a hassle :)

    14 Mar 2007, 11:50

  4. Lee Davis

    Probably not,unless I was certain that there were no other side roads also joining and the lights appeared to be stuck.
    Though I seem to remember from way back, that technically temporary traffic lights like that are advisory rather than mandatory so although it would be your fault in an accident it isn’t technically illegal to jump them.

    14 Mar 2007, 12:45

  5. Steve Rumsby

    I had to do exactly this today. My excuse is that I was on a bicycle and the movement sensor on the traffic light just didn’t see me, I assume. I sat there for quite some time with the light on red and nothing coming the other way. No amount of waving at the sensor would persuade it to change the lights so I just had to go. If anything had come the other way unexpectedly I had the option of switching to riding on the coned area, so it wasn’t too bad a situation. As it happens, nothing did.

    In a car I would just sit there and wait. Unless it took a really long time – long enough to suggest it was broken. How long is that? Good question…:-)

    14 Mar 2007, 17:08

  6. technically temporary traffic lights like that are advisory rather than mandatory

    Is this really true? I’d always assumed they had exactly the same status as normal traffic lights.

    14 Mar 2007, 18:14

  7. Tom

    Indeed they do, a friend of my mothers was waiting at temporary lights for what seemed like ages, there was clearly nothing coming and it was about 1030 on a Sunday night, she cautiously ‘jumped’ the red light, only to find that there was a police car a couple of cars back that charged her 60 quid and 3 points for the priviledge ;}

    14 Mar 2007, 18:49

  8. Lee Davis

    I said it was a long time ago. A quick google suggests the law changed in 1994 and they now have the same status as permanent lights.

    14 Mar 2007, 19:13

  9. Never is the simple answer.

    And temporary traffic lights being advisory is a myth (and a dangerous one at that).

    However, if the lights are broken, ie stuck on red and you proceed with caution it is unlikely you would be prosecuted, especially if you report it to the police or the company that operates the lights (phone number is usually on them).

    How do you know they are stuck?

    Well temporary lights often stay on red much longer than fixed ones but if there is not a third set of lights (for a junction in-between) then 3 minutes is probably good advice.

    If you have an unrestricted view for half a mile, a good road surface, excellent visibility no junctions or other hazards to worry about would you break the speed limit?

    Probably but it would still be illegal. Same penalty as for jumping red lights.

    Although speeding seems more acceptable than jumping red lights hence your question being an interesting one.

    14 Mar 2007, 19:23

  10. I don’t tend to jump.

    Funny thing though, this copper pulled over my mate a while back in Leamington for being an “amber gambler”, that is, speeding up when the light is on amber. I figure he coined this term himself just then, because I never heard it before. I think it’s a hilarious term. Anyone else heard it, or it is this copper’s personal things?

    15 Mar 2007, 12:57

  11. Tom

    Yeah, I’ve been called that in the past :?

    15 Mar 2007, 15:09

  12. Robert O'Toole

    So the consensus is that one shouldn’t “jump” temporary lights.

    Interesting then that the common assumption of drivers coming through the lights at the Kenilworth Road/Gibbet Hill junction seems to be that its fine to accelerate through a red light if it has only just changed.

    15 Mar 2007, 15:41

  13. Mary

    If I had someone in the car with me who was ill or about to give birth I may consider doing it.

    15 Mar 2007, 18:08

  14. The only time I would consider jumping a red light is if not doing so would prevent an emergency vehicle on a call from getting past. I’ve done this in the past.

    16 Mar 2007, 13:33

  15. I should add actually, I didn’t go through it at speed at a busy intersection – I was already stopped, so I merely edged forward about 4 or 5 metres and it was quiet and at night.

    16 Mar 2007, 13:36

  16. Mike

    No – I’d stay put for 10 mins at least

    16 Mar 2007, 22:23

  17. Chris May

    Vincent: “Don’t be an Amber Gambler” was the tagline from a public information advert a long time ago. Late ‘70s / early ‘80s I think. Best of all, via the mighty powers of google, here it is :-) Enjoy!

    18 Mar 2007, 20:32

  18. Adam A

    With traffic lights at actual junctions I don’t think I’d ever jump the red, even if the road is clear in both ways. I tend to curse drivers who do jump red lights so I couldn’t really condone doing it myself. Unless you really can see for miles in either direction (and I can’t really name many (any) junctions with traffic lights where this is the case) there is always the chance that someone will come colliding into the side of you at 100mph…..

    In the scenario you mention I doubt I’d wait around long if:

    1) You can see the end of the traffic lights
    2) Obviously no one is coming in the other direction
    3) There are no side roads [100% visibility or a road you know well]
    4) There are no cars approaching from behind

    I’ve added (4) given the chance its a Police car….....

    22 Mar 2007, 01:10

  19. Adam A

    Oh, and (5), my xenons haven’t changed the lights already :P

    22 Mar 2007, 01:11

  20. I have the same problem of lights not seeing me as a cyclist so I sometimes jump them. Or become a pedestrian (not actually getting off my bike but nipping onto the pavement) for a short length. Probably shouldnt but when its an empty road in the evening and you know no cars are going to come and force the lights to change there’s not a lot you can do.
    On an almost unrelated note – Lights changed for pedestrains to cross at a crossroads the other day and a guy in a car started driving across as though the lights had chanegd for his direction of traffic to go although I’m pretty certain he knew this wasnt the case. As I walked passed his car I just glared at him until he stopped.

    22 Mar 2007, 17:14

  21. Liz

    Happened to me a few years ago. Was waiting (along with an increasing number of cars behind me) at a set of temp. traffic lights, straight road, road works covered by traffic llights was about 50 (if not less) yards long. So I waited. And waited. thinking they’re not gonna change, I can see the other side of the roadworks, there hasn’t been a single car go through the other way, there still aren’t any. Seriously people, the traffic lights must have been broken (or at least the sensor was) and I’ve waited for 5 min, I had to go through! think I left it a reasonable time for the automatic timer to change the lights and the sensor wasn’t picking up my car so what was I to do?!

    23 Mar 2007, 07:19

  22. Scopestick

    I have just been issues with a intended prosecution notice for going through a redlight, well the pic is taken when 4/5ths of my car is over the line.
    have i got any chance inhell of not getting done?? any help would be mucg appreciated guys and girrls.

    17 Apr 2007, 15:56

  23. Kenny

    Temporary traffic lights are erected to prevent drivers of a lower intelligence from hitting each other where the road narrows, this affects us all.

    If the other end is visibly clear and there is absolutely no danger, then there is no point in waiting for reasons stated above.

    Anyone who jumps a red light at anything other than in a temporary situation risks both license, state of vehicle and personal health. Risk your own, but please don’t mess with mine.

    01 Jun 2007, 12:34

  24. Buzz

    I’d never, ever jump traffic lights on purpose. It’s too risky (they have little cameras sometimes to catch you). Even temporary ones. If there was a crash (eg. a black car with no headlights on in the evening – you may not notice it) it would be your fault.

    The problem is, I’m very worried. I have failed to notice that the lights were red three times since I passed my test last year. Twice it was on a pedestrian crossing with lots of distractions (people running across the road etc) and once it was on a big crossing which I’m used to turning right on but instead I was going straight across it. The sun was in my eyes and I didn’t notice they were red – it looked like they were green. Arg! I really hope this doesn’t happen again, or I will stop driving!

    BTW Scopestick, I think you will have to be prosecuted – even though it’s unfair! But fight all the same!

    19 Jul 2007, 14:46

  25. john

    Found a draft version of the 2007 highway code,rule 219 states “take appropriate action to let it pass,while complying with all traffic signs.”
    In other words – don’t go through a red light.

    draft version –

    29 Jul 2007, 22:35

  26. john

    please ignore my stupidity,the above is in the wrong forum.

    29 Jul 2007, 22:38

  27. Martin

    I think when cycling its morally acceptable as the risk is only personal

    23 Aug 2007, 13:57

  28. StevieB

    Buzz (24) Thats why the lights are arranged RED at the top, AMBER in the middle, GREEN at the bottom. They are all like this so if you were tottaly colour blind it would not matter, the light at the top is RED.

    10 Oct 2008, 17:55

  29. Marcus

    I had this situation today, we waited a while, two cars infront of me crossed on red so i followed….

    next thing blue flashing lights, i get pulled over and get 3 points and a £60 fine

    i said i wasnt the only one and all i got was “i can only pull one person over at a time”

    highly frustrating!

    19 Dec 2008, 20:55

  30. prestige car hire

    poor guy. the officer should have pulled the other 2 cars infront aswell and questioned all 3 drivers.

    22 Dec 2008, 02:40

  31. Limo Hire

    Well ths is it the boys in blue think they have the super powers

    25 Dec 2008, 02:35

  32. elle

    always, ever since they started defaulting all directions to red on junctions that don’t even need traffic lights (and making your direction turn red as soon as it sees a car) I’ve pretty much given up paying any attention to what they tell me to do – even got away with it more than once with the police; anything longer than about a 5 second wait when there is nothing coming from any direction means the lights are broken.
    Oh and on the spot fines: tell them to stick it (politely), no way you are paying, you did nothing wrong,9 times out of ten all you will get it a ‘notice of intended prosecution’ then hear nothing more about it (its all about generating revenue and courts are expensive) the other time you may actually have to go to court – in which case make sure you claim expenses when they let you off .

    07 Jun 2009, 00:30

  33. Hilda

    I have had this happen twice recently. First time I was a few cars back. After about 3 minutes wait and no traffic coming the other way the cars in front of me drove through the red light. Soon after I done the same. At the other end the signal was red with a long tailback.

    Second time was more complicated. Shows the problem with jumping a red light. Guys were cutting branches on one side of a road.
    I was at the front of a queue with a red light. No traffic coming the other way. After 2-3 minutes I edged through. I assumed they were only working on one side of the road. Turns out they had made both lights red just in case. It is a bad assumption that two red lights equal a green. Annoyingly I had seen workmen red both sides of a light at another roadworks and not considered jumping the light. Must of been tired this time and if I get reported for it will probably have to pay a fine.

    19 Nov 2009, 18:10

  34. Bryn jones

    as a person who trains people to set up portable traffic signals I make the following observation. If the lights were set up in “vehicle Detect” mode as is required in the pink book code of practice unless you have a written directive from the local highway authority of course then all this waiting at a red light when there is no oncoming traffic would cease. I am staggered to learn that even councils themselves havent got clue and are the worst culprits

    17 Feb 2011, 17:27

  35. Keren


    11 Jun 2011, 02:32

  36. John

    Still, having those temp’ unmaned traffic lights, or the ‘lolly pop’ hand held sign, that say; ’’STOP’’ on a red background and opposite; ’’GO’’ on a green background, is ‘light years’ ahead of what is used at ‘road works’ here in the U.S. Only hand held signs that read ‘STOP’ w/ a faint red background and a ‘YEILD’ on an dull burn orange background. Believe me, your signage in use in all your roadways-temp’ or permenant, are far more legable, informatable and above all, noticeable!

    02 Mar 2012, 07:22

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