Many Drivers Don’t Know What Flashing Traffic Lights Mean

National Drivers Tests have shown that many Americans cannot correctly answer which action to take when they approach flashing traffic light signals. They are confused about both flashing yellow signals and flashing red signals.

You are watching: When you see a flashing yellow light at an intersection you should

Which is strange, because flashing light signals are, and have always been, a common item on the DMV written knowledge test in all states.

All drivers should have seen the information at one point or another when preparing for their written exam.

Learn the Basic Rule and You will Know

The basic rule for traffic light signals is quite simple.

Red means stop.

Yellow means caution or warning.

Red Flashing Signals – What You Should Do


Railroad crossing: When you approach a flashing red light at a railroad crossing, you may not proceed until the lights stop flashing and the way is clear.

School bus: It is the same basic rule when you approach a stopped school bus with flashing red signals and an active stop arm. You must stop and remain stopped until lights stop flashing and the stop arm is withdrawn.

Intersection: When you approach an intersection, flashing red lights still mean stop but there is one difference. You are not required to remain stopped until the flashing traffic lights stop flashing – because they will continue flashing.

Instead, the flashing red light at an intersection has the same meaning as a stop sign. You must come to a full stop at a limit line or crosswalk and yield to crossing vehicles and pedestrians. You may proceed only when it is safe to do so.

Yellow Flashing Signals – What You Should Do


School bus: A flashing yellow light means caution. When you approach a school bus with flashing yellow lights near the top, it tells you that the school bus is about to stop. You should slow down, be alert, and be prepared to stop. Read more: School Bus Questions on Your DMV Test .

Intersection: At an intersection, the yellow light has the same meaning. You must slow down, watch for crossing traffic, and proceed with caution through the intersection. You are not required to stop unless you must do so to avoid an accident.

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Railroad crossing: You will not see flashing yellow signals at a railroad crossing.

DMV Example Questions

With this knowledge, you will have no issues when you see questions like these on your written DMV test:

A traffic light with a flashing red signal means?

A. YieldB. StopC. Caution

A flashing yellow traffic signal means:

A. Stop before entering the intersection if you can do so safelyB. Stop. Yield to all cross traffic before entering the intersectionC. Slow down and carefully enter the intersection

A flashing yellow traffic signal has the same meaning as:

A. A stop signB. A yield signC. A slow sign

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