Blue lights when Yellow turns to Red

The in basket: Jo Clark read the Nov. 27 Road Warrior about the legality of entering an intersection when the light is yellow, which essentially said it’s legal if there’s room for you on the other side of the intersection. Two state troopers agreed with that.
“If so,” Joe asks, “how can they justify the ‘blue’ lights installed on the back of signal lights at Marine Drive and some other places (in Bremerton)?  I was the recipient of a warning (as I recall) for doing what they say is legal, right after they installed the blue light.  
“The trooper told me they sit on the other side of the intersection and watch for it to turn blue so they can catch the ‘perpetrators’!  I was not speeding – just caught in that very wide intersection because it was unsafe to stop on the yellow


The in basket: Jo Clark read the Nov. 27 Road Warrior about the legality of entering an intersection when the light is yellow, which essentially said it’s legal if there’s room for you on the other side of the intersection. Two state troopers agreed with that.
“If so,” Joe asks, “how can they justify the ‘blue’ lights installed on the back of signal lights at Marine Drive and some other places (in Bremerton)?  I was the recipient of a warning (as I recall) for doing what they say is legal, right after they installed the blue light.  
“The trooper told me they sit on the other side of the intersection and watch for it to turn blue so they can catch the ‘perpetrators’!  I was not speeding – just caught in that very wide intersection because it was unsafe to stop on the yellow.
“Let’s face it – if they put the blue light on the reverse of the signal, sit and watch for it to come on, and then come after you, it means they don’t want you to enter the intersection unless you can get all the way through.
“Somebody’s got it wrong. Either it’s illegal or it isn’t. And if the WSP say it’s not illegal they should remove the blue lights!
The out basket: The blue lights, nicknamed tattle-tale lights, tell an officer sitting in a car off to the side when the light has turned red without him having to actually see the face of the light. That way he doesn’t have to create a hazard himself by following the violator through the light.
Regardless of the legality of entering on yellow, the lights identify when a car has entered on the red, so serve a useful function.
And it probably was a Bremerton officer, not a state trooper that stopped Jo. The light is in the city.
I asked Traffic Capt. Pete Fisher of BPD what his officers are likely to do when they see a car enter the intersection on yellow and still is in it when the light has turned red.
He called it “a fairly nebulous thing,” and said it’s a matter of officer discretion. Was it debatable whether the driver had beaten the red? “Did they speed up when the light turned amber to make it?” That can support an even more serious charge, like negligent or reckless driving, especially if it endangers a pedestrian.
“We’d like them to stop,” he said.
The intersection at Marine and Kitsap Way, where Jo was stopped, is large and a person can be in it for quite a while on red just completing a left turn. That might justify a ticket for blocking the intersection even if there is room on the other side once the driver gets there.
But if I were ever ticketed for running a red light after entering on the yellow, I’d go to court, have the officer tell the judge what he saw and let the judge decide. The law in this state calls the a yellow light a warning that “the related green movement is being terminated or that a red indication will be exhibited immediately thereafter when vehicular traffic shall not enter the intersection.” It requires a stop only if there are pedestrians “lawfully” in the intersection.

One thought on “Blue lights when Yellow turns to Red

  1. Greetings from Seattle –
    Law Enforcement isn’t always right. Calling up your local police station and asking them a question regarding if something is legal or illegal isn’t always the best way in getting the correct answer.
    I’m a security guard that has never spent one day in college. In fact, they say I have a 5th to 6th grade education. So I hope that you’ll find my answer useful.
    There is nothing in the law stating that you cannot enter the intersection on a “yellow” light. However, entering the intersection on a red light is illegal. If you’ve already crossed over the ‘limit line’ on a yellow light, then you’ve entered the intersection legally. However, because the yellow means proceed w/ caution in the event that you enter the intersection and get into a collision, then you may be cited and accept some liability.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Before you post, please complete the prompt below.

(Not a trick question) What color is the pink house?