New York City Traffic Signal Rules

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Intersections rank among the highest risk areas where people drive, particularly in urban areas like New York City. About 60 percent of all fatal accidents in cities occur at intersections, according to statistics from the Federal Highway Administration. Knowing New York city traffic signal rules can help make you a safer driver.

Roughly one-third of those fatal car crashes happened at intersections controlled by a traffic light, while 38 percent occurred at crossings governed by a stop sign. Most of the people killed were occupants of motor vehicles, but other users including bicyclists and pedestrians were among the fatalities.

New York City has established specific rules for how motorists, cyclists and pedestrians should navigate intersections in the city. However, when someone doesn’t obey the rules, an accident could result.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a New York car accident at a traffic signal, protect your rights by calling the New York City personal injury attorneys at David Resnick & Associates, P.C., for a consultation. There is no obligation, so call today at 212-279-2000 or contact the firm through our online form.

New York City Traffic Signal Rules

Section 4-03 of the New York City Department of Transportation’s Traffic Rules regulates how vehicular and foot traffic navigates intersections that are governed by signals. The full text of the regulations is available online at //www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/trafrule.pdf. Here are highlights of the rules:

Section 4-03

Traffic Signals

(a) Traffic control signals. Whenever traffic is controlled by traffic control signals exhibiting different colored lights successively, the following colors shall indicate and apply to operators of vehicles and to pedestrians, except as superseded by pedestrian control signals, as follows:

1. Green alone:

  • Vehicular traffic facing such signals may proceed straight through or turn right or left unless a sign at such place prohibits any such movement. But vehicular traffic, including vehicles turning right or left, shall yield the right of way to other vehicles and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk at the time such signal is exhibited.
  • Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway within any crosswalk.

2. Steady yellow alone, dark period, or red-green combined when shown following the green signal:

  • Vehicular traffic facing such signal is thereby warned that the red signal will be exhibited immediately thereafter and such vehicular traffic shall not enter the intersection when the red signal is exhibited.
  • Pedestrians facing such signal are thereby warned that there is insufficient time to cross the roadway, and shall not enter or cross the roadway. Pedestrians already in the roadway shall proceed to the nearest safety island or sidewalk.

3. Steady red alone:

  • Vehicular traffic facing such signal shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then before entering the intersection and shall remain standing until an indication to proceed is shown.
  • Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this subdivision (a), or any provisions of state law, an operator approaching an intersection where a sign authorizes right or left turns on red signal may make such turn after coming to a complete stop, but shall yield the right of way to all vehicles and pedestrians lawfully within the intersection.
  • Pedestrians facing such signal shall not enter or cross the roadway.

4. Arrows. When colored lights shaped as arrows are used as traffic control signals, arrows pointing to the right shall apply to operators intending to enter the intersection to turn to the right, arrows pointing vertically shall apply to operators intending to enter the intersection to proceed straight through, and arrows pointing to the left shall apply to operators intending to enter the intersection to turn to the left. The colors of arrows shall have the same meanings as colors of traffic signal lights, but shall apply only to operators intending to enter the intersection to proceed in the direction controlled by the arrow.

5. Signs. Operators shall comply with signs that refer to traffic control signals at places other than the intersections at which such signals are located, for example, “Stop here on red.”

6. Signals not at intersections. In the event an official traffic control signal is erected and maintained at a place other than an intersection, all the provisions of this subdivision (a) shall be applicable, except those provisions which by their nature can have no application. Any stop required shall be made at a sign or marking on the pavement indicating where the stop shall be made, but in the absence of any such sign or marking the stop shall be made at the signal.

7. Nonfunctioning signals. Vehicular traffic facing a signal that is not working shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then before entering the intersection and shall proceed with caution through the intersection.

(b) Blinking traffic control signals.

  • Red. Vehicular traffic facing such signals shall come to a complete stop and shall proceed only after yielding to any vehicles approaching from the cross street.
  • Yellow. Vehicular traffic facing such signals shall proceed with caution through the intersection.

(c) Pedestrian control signals. Whenever pedestrian control signals are in operation, exhibiting the words “WALK” and “DON’T WALK” successively, the international green or red hand symbols, figures or any other internationally recognized representation concerning the movement of pedestrians, such signals shall indicate as follows:

  • WALK, green hand symbol or green walking figure. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal in any crosswalk. Vehicular traffic shall yield the right of way to such pedestrians.
  • Flashing DON’T WALK, red hand symbol or red standing figure. Pedestrians facing such signal are warned that there is insufficient time to cross the roadway and no pedestrian shall enter or cross the roadway. Pedestrians already in the roadway shall proceed to the nearest safety island or sidewalk. Vehicular traffic shall yield the right of way to such pedestrians.
  • Steady DON’T WALK, red hand symbol or red standing figure. Pedestrians facing such signal shall not enter or cross the roadway.

Were You Hurt in a Car Accident in Brooklyn? Call Our New York City Lawyers Today

If you or someone you love was seriously injured in an auto accident and someone else was at fault, you could be entitled to compensation. The NYC accident attorneys at David Resnick & Associates, P.C., are skilled at evaluating traffic accident claims and have a track record of getting results for their clients. Call our firm today at 212-279-2000 or use our online contact form for a free evaluation of your case.

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