It’s part of the Australian great debate: should you stop at yellow lights or speed up?
Put simply, it all depends on the situation – how fast you’re travelling, how near or far you are to the stop line, and how safe it is for you to stop without causing an accident.
So, what exactly are the Aussie road rules of yellow traffic lights? We explain the dos and don'ts of what to do when you’re in the driver’s seat.
What are the road rules for yellow lights?
Around the country, the yellow light means stop.
According to the NSW Roads and Maritime Services you can enter and cross the intersection if you’re too close to the stop line that sudden braking could cause a crash.
And when it comes to turning when a yellow arrow is flashing, you can continue to drive through but must always give way to any pedestrians crossing the road.
In the case that the traffic lights aren’t working or are flashing yellow and you’re approaching the sign, you must stop and give way to traffic and treat it as though you’re at an intersection with stop signs.
According to the National Transport Commission, Rule 57 of the Australian Road Rules states that a driver approaching a yellow traffic light must stop if:
a) there is a stop line and the driver can stop safely before reaching the stop line.
b) there is no stop line and the driver can stop safely before reaching the traffic lights.
c) the traffic lights are at an intersection and the driver cannot stop safely in accordance with points (a) or (b) but can stop safely before entering the intersection.
Typical time settings for yellow light intervals
The purpose of the yellow light is to notify drivers to slow down and be prepared for the red light, allowing enough time for vehicles to stop at the stop line. The time setting for yellow lights are ruled by the areas speed limit. Typical time settings for yellow lights are listed below.
Typical time settings for yellow light intervals:
Speed (km/h) Time (seconds)
What are the fines for running a yellow light?
Regardless of the road rules, many drivers opt to put the pedal to the metal to make the yellow light and cut time out of their journey. But putting pressure on the accelerator and taking the risk to beat the red could cost you big bucks.
Nation-wide, you can be fined for driving through a yellow light if it seems you could’ve come to a safe stop.
Police records revealed the total number of fines for running yellow lights jumped from $48,070 in 2012 to $87,658 in 2017.
In NSW, it will cost you a $457 fine and three demerit points if you do not stop before traffic lights when the light is yellow and four demerit points plus a $572 fine if this happens in a school zone.
In Queensland, fines for failing to abide the yellow light are worth $400 and three demerit points.
Although it can be tempting to speed up when traffic lights turn yellow, it’s actually against Aussie road rules.
So, to avoid getting caught out next time you drive towards a yellow light, pay attention to whether or not you have enough space to allow you to continue to safely cross the intersection or slow down to stop. Help make the roads a safer place to travel by making conscientious decisions.