Red and Yellow Light Accidents in California

California yellow light law

Intersection accidents are some of the most serious that we see here at our law firm. The sad fact is that people are driving too fast too often near our intersections.

In particular, many drivers try to “beat” a yellow light by hitting the gas pedal and end up slamming into pedestrians and other innocent motorists. Instead of slowing down when they see a yellow light, they consider it a signal to increase their speed.

At a general level, we all know that vehicles must stop on red and slow down on yellow, but let us look closely at the specific legal language in the California Vehicle Code.

California Yellow Light Law

You can find the relevant legal language at the California Vehicle Code 21452, which basically states that a driver who is facing a yellow light (or yellow arrow) is being warned that “green movement is ending” and that a red light is coming soon.

The California yellow light law therefore cautions motorists that they should drive carefully as they should know that traffic is about to stop soon.

California Red Light Law

You can find the relevant red-light law at California Vehicle Code 21453. It states that a driver who faces a red signal should stop before the marked line or before entering the crosswalk or intersection. The law also allows a driver facing a red light to make a right-hand turn afterstopping. The driver can also make a left-hand turn from one one-way street onto another one-way street. However, motorists must yield to pedestrians and others.

The law is also quite clear that if you are facing a red arrow, you cannot enter the intersection to make that movement. For example, if a red left-hand arrow is showing, you can’t sneak into the intersection and sit there to prepare to make a left-hand turn.

Car Accidents Involving Red and Yellow Lights

Failure to stop properly is a definite cause of many car accidents in California. As experienced car accident lawyers, we have seen many tragic accidents caused by motorists failing to follow the law:

  • Failure to Come to a Full Stop. Many drivers who are turning right on red come to only a “rolling stop,” to put it charitably. Instead of completely stopping at the line, they slow down and roll through on red. As a result, they often don’t see pedestrians who are legally in the crosswalk—with devastating results.
  • Running a Red. We appreciate the increased pace of everyday life, but that’s not a license to race through a red light. Often, motorists see a yellow light up ahead and try to beat it. Instead, they only end up smashing into traffic that has the right of way.
  • Left-hand turn crashes. Sometimes, a driver sitting in the intersection tries to make a left-hand turn, but oncoming traffic doesn’t slow or runs a red light themselves. As a result, the vehicles collide.

These kinds of accidents are entirely avoidable if drivers would simply follow the law, which is written to protect everyone on our roads.

Liability and Red and Yellow Light Accidents

To receive compensation, you need to show another motorist was at fault for the accident, which means they were negligent. Negligence generally means that the driver did not operate his or her motor vehicle with sufficient care.

Fortunately, our state has made it easy to prove negligence in many car accident cases. Under California law, a driver who violates the California Vehicle Codes is “negligent per se,” meaning the violation alone is sufficient proof that the driver was not being careful. You can then make a claim on that driver’s insurance policy or possibly even file a lawsuit in court for compensation.

How do you prove a driver violated the California yellow light law (or the red-light law)? Often, you need evidence in the form of:

  • Witness statements, including your own memories of how the accident unfolded
  • Photographs of the damage to the vehicles
  • Surveillance video, if there are nearby cameras that caught the crash
  • Dashcam video

If a police officer investigated the crash and issued a citation, then that would be very helpful evidence as well. However, a motorist can still be liable even if they are not cited by the police for breaking the California red light law or another traffic law.

If you were injured in a car accident, you need a strong advocate to represent you. The team at Starpoint Law, has brought many successful claims for our clients and has obtained millions of dollars in settlements and jury verdicts.

Reach out to us today to schedule your free, no-risk consultation with a member of our team.

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