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Who is at Fault When an Accident Involves Running a Yellow Light?

Drivers react in different ways when they see a yellow light. Some try to speed up to ensure that they get through the intersection before the signal turns red. Others slam on the brakes to stop quickly. Still, others drive on indecisively for some seconds, and then often speed up or slow down with sudden force.

All of these erratic, unpredictable actions can lead to car accidents, but when do the driver’s actions lead to a determination of fault? And what happens when a driver runs a yellow light without changing speed? Are they liable if they’re in an accident?

What the Florida Statutes Say About Yellow Traffic Signals

Drivers often wonder if they can get a ticket for running a light if the signal is yellow and turns red while they’re driving through the intersection. The Florida Motor Vehicle Statutes do not specifically prohibit drivers from driving through an intersection displaying a yellow signal. A steady yellow signal is described as a warning that the green light is ending and a red light is coming. The statute advises pedestrians that they do not have time to cross the road before the light turns red, but it gives no guidance as to the actions drivers should take.

When drivers see a flashing yellow light, the law specifies that they are allowed to drive through the intersection as long as they do so with caution. Since caution is also required for drivers proceeding through an intersection displaying a green signal, it seems that the laws regarding yellow lights do not direct behavior but specify that yellow lights should be seen as warnings. A driver will not be ticketed for driving through a red light if the light was still yellow at the time the vehicle entered the intersection.

However, a driver’s actions can still be considered illegal or unsafe for other reasons involving their behavior around a yellow light. Remember that drivers are expected to drive with caution, and that often goes out the window when they see a yellow light.

Can Drivers Be Responsible if They Slam on the Brakes to Stop at a Yellow Light?

When a driver stops unexpectedly, the driver of the vehicle behind often cannot react in time, and the result is a rear-end collision. This commonly occurs at traffic lights, particularly once red light cameras have been installed. Drivers know their risk of getting a ticket is much higher, and they sometimes slam on the brakes to ensure they can avoid the ticket.

But if they’re driving at highway speed and suddenly screech to a halt when a light has just turned yellow, is that reckless or negligent driving on their part? In most cases, the answer would be, “no.” A driver would be considered acting reasonably in stopping at a yellow light, and the driver behind them would be considered negligent in driving too close. The law generally expects drivers to allow enough distance between vehicles so that they can stop when the car ahead stops or slows down.

What Happens If a Driver Speeds Up Through a Yellow Light?

Speeding up to avoid a red light can easily be considered negligent or even reckless behavior. The details affect the determination. A tiny increase in speed for a distance of ten feet may not be negligent driving. But accelerating hard for 50 yards to get through a light could definitely be viewed as negligent and cause a driver to be held liable for causing an accident. Even a driver who doesn’t change speed at all could be treated as negligent if they were driving too fast to begin with.

Speeding up at a yellow light is often the cause of left turn side-impact and rollover crashes. Drivers waiting to turn believe it is safe to do so because traffic appears to have stopped, and they pull into the intersection only to be hit during another driver’s last-minute attempt to get through the light. Often those drivers are distracted and do not notice vehicles starting to make a turn.

An Experienced Accident Attorney Can Help You Recover When Someone Runs a Yellow Light

An increase in red light cameras in Florida has led to an increase in drivers running yellow lights to avoid having to pay a fine. But if their negligent driving triggers an accident, they deserve to be held accountable.

The dedicated attorneys at the Maus Law Firm help accident victims recover the compensation they need to rebuild their lives after a car accident, and they will work tirelessly to prove liability on the part of a negligent driver who ran a yellow light or otherwise behaved irresponsibly. To get full and fair compensation after your accident, contact our team now for a free consultation and case evaluation. 

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