Red and Yellow Light Intersection Accidents

When a traffic signal turns from green to yellow, drivers are warned that the flow of traffic through an intersection will be changing shortly. The safest choice to make when faced with a yellow light is to slow down and stop. Unfortunately, many drivers see a yellow signal and decide to speed through the intersection to beat the light. Aggressive driving at Los Angeles intersections is a leading cause of car accidents in the city. Many of these accidents occur at yellow and red lights.

Have you been injured in a Los Angeles car accident at a red or yellow light? You may be entitled to compensation for the harm you have suffered. Contact the Los Angeles personal injury attorneys at Glotzer & Leib, LLP to find out how we can help you maximize the amount of money you receive. We have over two decades of experience handling complex personal injury cases and have successfully recovered millions in damages for our clients. We understand how devastating a car accident can be and will fight to make sure you are fairly compensated for your injuries. Call us today to set up a free consultation and learn more.

Intersection Accident Statistics

Intersection collisions are the second-leading cause of traffic accidents in the country. The Federal Highway Administration reports that approximately 40 percent of all accidents across the country involve an intersection.

Los Angeles intersections are more dangerous than anywhere else. In 2016, there were 794 fatal car accidents in Los Angeles. 298 of these accidents were fatal. While 40 percent of intersections accidents in the country result in injury, 40 percent of intersection accidents in Los Angeles result in death.

Where Do Most Los Angeles Intersection Accidents Happen?

Which Los Angeles intersections report the greatest number of traffic accidents? In 2015, the following intersections were reported to be the most dangerous:

  • Devonshire Street & Reseda Boulevard
  • Imperial Highway & Vista Del Mar
  • Balboa Boulevard & Nordhoff Street
  • Lindley Avenue & Roscoe Boulevard
  • Roscoe Boulevard & Winnetka Avenue
  • Roscoe Boulevard & Van Nuys Boulevard
  • Reseda Boulevard & Roscoe Boulevard, and
  • Sherman Way & Woodman Avenue.

Driver Responsibilities at an Intersection

Most intersection accidents involve red and yellow traffic lights. This is often because drivers are not aware of their obligations at an intersection. California law provides some guidance about what drivers are expected to do when faced with a yellow or red light.

Red Lights

Red Light, Steady: When approaching a steady red light, drivers must stop:

  • At the clearly marked limit line
  • Before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or
  • Before entering the intersection.

Drivers are prohibited from moving through the intersection until the traffic signal has turned green or it is safe (and permitted) to make a right-hand turn. [California Vehicle Code Section 21453]

Red Arrow, Steady: Making a left-hand turn at an intersection can be dangerous. Many Los Angeles cities have recently installed left-hand signal arrows to help reduce the number of intersection accidents. When approaching a steady red arrow, drivers must stop:

  • At the clearly marked limit line
  • Before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or
  • Before entering the intersection.

Drivers are prohibited from making a left-hand turn when the arrow signal is a steady red light. Drivers may only execute a turn when the signal turns green or begins to flash yellow.

Yellow Lights

Yellow Light, Steady: There is no hard-and-fast rule about what drivers must do when faced with a steady yellow light. California law explains that a yellow traffic light means that “a red indication will be shown immediately thereafter.” This change can happen in a matter of seconds. Drivers are encouraged to use caution and begin to slow down when approaching a yellow signal. [California Vehicle Code 21452]

Yellow Light or Arrow, Flashing: Some Los Angeles traffic signals will display a flashing yellow signal or arrow. Drivers are permitted to use these lanes to perform left-hand turns. The driver must yield to all oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Left-hand turns can only be executed when the driver has reason to believe that the turn can be executed safely. [California Vehicle Code Section 12454]

Four Way Stop

Sometimes an intersection will be equipped with multiple stop signs rather than changing traffic signals. Any driver who approaches a stop sign has a legal obligation to come to a complete stop. Who has the right of way when an intersection has multiple stop signs? In Los Angeles, drivers must yield to the driver on his or her immediate right. [California Vehicle Code Section 21800]

Non-Intersection Highway Entry and Crossing

Sometimes drivers will need to enter or cross a highway from a road or drive that is not marked by traffic signals.

Entering a Highway: Drivers wishing to enter the flow of traffic on a highway must yield the right of way to all traffic on that road. When the driver has an opening to enter the highway safely, they may do so. Once the driver has initiated entry into the road, oncoming traffic must then yield to that driver to avoid a collision. [California Vehicle Code Section 21804]

Crossing a Highway: Drivers who simply need to cross a highway at a location other than an intersection may do so. However, they must yield to all oncoming traffic and any pedestrians who may also be sharing the road. Once the driver determines that crossing the road is safe, they may do so. Oncoming traffic must then yield to the crossing vehicle.

Common Causes of Intersection Accidents

Why do so many traffic accidents happen at Los Angeles intersections? According to accident statistics, there are a few leading causes of intersection crashes.

Not Stopping at a Red Light

Drivers have an obligation to come to a complete stop at a red light. When a driver wants to make a right-hand turn at an intersection, they may simply roll through a red light without stopping. This is a common cause of intersection-related accidents. Drivers who do not stop at a red light before turning do not have the time to properly analyze traffic conditions. These drivers may not see oncoming traffic or pedestrians while turning, resulting in a crash.

Speeding to Beat a Yellow Light

Many drivers do not want to sit through a red signal and will attempt to speed through an intersection to beat the light before it turns red.  This is dangerous behavior which puts everyone at an increased risk of harm. Drivers will often exceed the speed limit and collide with vehicles that are trying to turn before the light changes.

Left-Hand Turns

Making a left-hand turn at an intersection can be difficult. Drivers who are impatient and fail to check for oncoming traffic or pedestrians often cause accidents. Many cities in Los Angeles are installing arrow signals at intersections to help reduce the number of left-hand-turn accidents.

Rear End Crashes

Rear-end crashes are the most frequently reported type of car accident in the country. Most rear-end crashes involve intersections. Many of these rear-end accidents happen because there is no standard rule for what drivers should do at a yellow light. Other rear-end intersection accidents happen because drivers become distracted at red lights. When the driver fails to see that the light has turned green, they may be rear-ended by aggressive drivers behind them.

Negligence and Red or Yellow Light Accidents


Most intersection accidents are the result of driver negligence. All drivers on the road have an obligation to drive safely. This requires obeying all posted traffic laws, understanding responsibilities at an intersection, and using caution to prevent the risk of harm. When drivers do not uphold their duty of care to others, they can be held financially responsible for any injuries that result.

Negligence Per Se

Some accidents are the result of pure negligence, but do not involve breaking the law. Others, however, involve actions that violate local law. When a driver violates a traffic law (e.g., making a left-hand turn when the traffic signal is red), it can be easier for victims to recover compensation. Violating a law is considered negligence per se. This means that victims do not have to prove that the driver who caused their accident was negligent. Instead, the victim only has to show that the driver violated a law that was intended to prevent the type of injury that occurred.

Los Angeles Car Accident Attorneys

Have you been injured in a Los Angeles traffic accident at a red or yellow light? You may be entitled to an award of damages from the at-fault driver. Contact the Los Angeles personal injury attorneys at Glotzer & Leib, LLP for assistance filing your legal claim. The statute of limitations will begin to run the moment you are injured, so it is important to act quickly. Call us today to schedule your free consultation.