New York City Traffic Lights Rules - Auto Accident

New York City Traffic Lights Rules - Auto Accident

New York City Traffic Lights Rules - Auto Accident

While traffic accidents can happen just about anywhere, there are areas with a higher likelihood of being involved in an accident. One of the best examples is intersections found within urban areas. As reported by the Department of Transportation, statistics cited by the Federal Highway Administration indicate that more than half of traffic accidents resulting in injuries or fatalities take place at or near urban intersections. 


One way to minimize the odds of being involved in accidents of this type is to know the traffic light rules that apply in New York City. Educating yourself isn't as difficult as many people think. There are resources online that will help with the process. In the meantime, here is some basic information that will get you started. 

The Laws Don't Just Apply to Drivers

The city's traffic laws are not just for those who are behind the wheel. Some of them apply to passengers traveling in vehicles, while others have to do with pedestrians. There are also laws that apply to people using bicycles in various areas of New York. The point of all the laws is to prevent auto accidents from happening in the first place. 


To that end, no one remains unaffected by those laws. That's reason enough to learn about and follow each of those rules. While they may seem inconvenient at times, those laws can make the difference between arriving at your destination safely and ending up in a hospital. 

Finding Facts About Traffic Rules in New York City

The best place to get details about traffic lights and other rules within the city is to check out the information offered by the New York City Department of Transportation. The department has prepared a document that you can download and read through with ease. Within that document, you'll learn what regulations apply to foot and vehicular traffic as it relates to intersection with traffic lights. 


It's important to note that the information found in the document would be utilized if an injury took place, and you chose to consult with a New York car accident lawyer. In other words, you can depend on the veracity of what you're reading. 

Key Elements Found in Section 4-03 of New York City's Traffic Code

traffic lights

Since your focus is on laws having to do with New York City traffic lights, Section 4-03 will be of particular interest. You'll find information that applies whether you're behind the wheel, a passenger, or walking near an intersection with a traffic light. 


Part of the information has to do with the lights proper. The rules clearly spell out what can and can't be done, depending on the current color of the light. They also cover how the use of traffic signs in tandem with the lights provide direction into what can and can't be done. 


  • Green lights indicate that vehicles may go straight through the intersection. It may also be possible to turn left or right, depending on the traffic flow, and in the absence of any signs that prohibit turning in either direction during certain times of the day. When the light is green, pedestrians may walk across using a crosswalk. 
  • Yellow lights indicate the need for caution. That's because the light is about to move from yellow to red. This means vehicles should be prepared to come to a stop if it's not possible to get through the intersection before the light changes to red. Pedestrians who are already proceeding through the crosswalk should hurry along, or at least get to any safety island that may be part of the intersection's layout. 
  • Red lights indicate that the flow of traffic must stop. This allows traffic from other directions to proceed. Turning left or right is only allowed if there are no signs prohibiting that movement. Pedestrians should not attempt to cross until it's safe to do so. 

What about Intersections With Arrows?

Traffic light configurations often include arrows as well as steady lights. They provide additional information about which directions to turn or to proceed. For example, a green arrow may indicate that it's allowed to make a left-hand turn, even if there's a red light prohibiting forward traffic. 


In many parts of the city, there are also arrows for pedestrians. These are at crosswalks, and work in tandem with the traffic lights. They indicate when it's safe to enter a crosswalk and proceed to the opposite side. 

The Meaning of Blinking Traffic Control Lights

Blinking red or yellow traffic lights indicate that it may be safe to proceed, but caution is urged. How you react to each light is slightly different. 


A blinking red light means that vehicle drivers should stop, look in all directions for oncoming traffic, and only proceed if the way is clear. Blinking yellow lights indicate that the vehicle does have the right of way, but it's a good idea to slow down and look around while moving through the intersection. 

Interpreting Pedestrian Traffic Control Signals

pedestrian traffic control signals

Arrows at crosswalks aren't the only way that New York City's traffic laws address the issue of pedestrian traffic. At some intersections, there may be other equipment used to control how pedestrians move across streets. These involve stations on each side of the crosswalk that flash directions of "walk" and "don't walk."


Like their arrow counterparts, these controls are synced with the traffic lights. This ensures pedestrians can cross without attempting to move through a flow of traffic. With some designs, those control stations may show a number of seconds before the instruction to walk or not walk changes. 


The design may also include a figure that's green when it's safe to cross, yellow when the time allotted to cross is running out, and red when it's not safe to cross. In any case, a red signal means that pedestrians should not attempt to cross the street. 

What Happens When a Traffic Signal Isn't Working?

Adverse weather, the loss of power, and other factors can render a traffic light inoperable. What should you do in this sort of situation? There are several options. 


If the light is out and no law enforcement office is present to direct traffic, then you should come to a complete stop, look in all directions, and only proceed if the way is clear. Generally, yielding to the vehicle on the right will help to reduce the risk of vehicular accidents. Essentially, you are acting as if the intersection has stop signs rather than traffic lights. 


What if you're a pedestrian? If a traffic signal is out of order, you should also act as if stop signs were present. Remain on the sidewalk as you check out the flow of traffic. Attempt to cross only if the way is clear. If there is an island in the middle of the street, it's fine to cross that far, then wait until the rest of the way is clear. 


Should a police officer arrive to direct the traffic, that officer is now taking the place of the traffic light. You are to obey all hand signals given by that officer. Having a trained professional direct the flow of traffic will increase the odds of preventing an accident. 

Your Role if An Accident Does Happen

If someone is injured in a collision, you should notify the authorities at once. One quick call to 911 will alert the police and make it possible to arrange for medical help to be dispatched. 


People who saw the collision take place should remain at the scene. The police will want to collect as many eyewitness accounts as possible. Those who came on the scene after the fact should keep moving if possible. The goal is to not block the police and any emergency vehicle from getting to the injured parties. 

If You Are the Injured Party

When you or someone with you is injured, the priority is to secure medical help. That's managed with the same 911 call used to summon the police. While they are on the way, remain as calm as possible. 


After receiving treatment, you have a decision to make. Will you seek some sort of compensation from the responsible party? Do you have any idea what would constitute reasonable compensation? 


Continue with the medical care, and focus on recovering. At the same time, retain the services of a car accident lawyer in New York City. The lawyer can represent you, take care of all communications with the responsible party, and seek a settlement that's reasonable. Advice from your legal counsel will help you better understand your rights as they relate to the accident's particulars. 

Sorting through the aftermath of a traffic accident isn't easy, especially if you've never been involved in an accident before. The most practical approach is to secure the services of one of Linden Law's lawyers, and work closely with your legal counsel to ensure every detail is taken into account. Your legal counsel will know all about the traffic rules, how they relate to your case, and what it will take to protect your interests. 


For more information about traffic laws in New York City and what it will take to protect your rights, contact the team at Linden Law today. 

Categories: All, Car Accidents, Personal Injury, Your Rights

(212) 804-8440