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Blog: Are you an amber-gambler?

Whether through impatience or ignorance many drivers are seemingly unaware an amber traffic light means STOP. Are you an amber-gambler?

Amber traffic light

So there I was, in the back of a taxi, running a few minutes late for work and willing the driver, who'd been a bit slow with picking up speed at traffic lights, to go through on amber.

I knew that if he didn't we’d be stuck at the busy cross junction for many minutes more as we waited for the traffic light sequence to start all over again.

Fortunately for me, the driver propelled his car onwards, driving through on amber and getting me to work two minutes late instead of five.

But wait - that was wrong of me. To wish the driver to go through on amber, I mean. Because it's illegal to go through an amber traffic light, as we all know - or do we?

Being an amber-gambler

Gemma Stanbury, head of car insurance at Confused.com, thinks that many drivers don't care that it's illegal to drive through an amber traffic light.

And she puts the number of amber-gamblers down to city drivers’ impatience.

"I have lived in Cardiff for 13 years now and I honestly thought that amber meant stop.

"But I've been wondering if I'm wrong because in Cardiff everyone goes through an amber light - in fact, they barely stop for a red.

City drivers more likely to be amber-gamblers?

"But in south Devon, where I'm originally from, it's a different story. Drivers not only stop at amber lights, they're polite as well - another thing I think is lacking among city drivers.

"I think it's a city thing: there’s so much congestion but everyone's rushing and getting nowhere fast so it seems to be generally accepted to race through on amber.

"But what's worse is that I now find myself racing through amber lights too.

"I think people need to remember that if you're running late, you should have left the house earlier.

Gemma has a point, I should have left for work earlier – not willed my taxi driver to go through on amber.

Traffic light law

But motoring lawyer Jeanette Miller, of Geoffrey Miller Solicitors, reckons it's not just drivers' impatience that's to blame - many simply don't know the law.

At traffic lights red means stop, red and amber together mean stop, and amber alone means stop, as explained on page 119 of this Department for Transport Know your Traffic Signs booklet.

Traffic lights

Miller adds: "The position in law is that going through on amber is failing to comply with the traffic signal so it is no defence to say it wasn't yet red.

"This is outlined in the Road Traffic Act, section 36, and the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions, regulations 10 and 36.

"It is also covered in rule 175 of the Highway Code which states:

‘You MUST stop behind the white ‘Stop' line across your side of the road unless the light is green. If the amber light appears you may go on only if you have already crossed the stop line or are so close to it that to stop might cause a collision.

90% unaware amber means stop

"However, I would say that around 90% of drivers aren't aware that amber means stop as we often get people calling us and saying I didn't go through on red, I went through on amber.

"I don't think we've ever defended such a case as there's just no defence."

Miller has a point about drivers simply not being aware that amber means stop - as failing to comply with a traffic signal is the third most common motoring conviction.

Ignoring traffic light third most common motoring conviction

We looked at customers who obtained a car insurance quote from Confused.com between October and December 2012, with motoring convictions in the last five years prior to the date of the quote.

And a TS10 conviction - failing to comply with a traffic signal - was the third most common motoring offence, after speeding and using a mobile phone at the wheel.

What’s more, it could lead to a 24% increase in your car insurance premium.

So now you know – amber means stop. Spread the word.

What do you think?

Are you an amber-gambler? Do you know traffic light law?

We want to hear from you! You can share your views on our message board below.

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Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick reports on all things personal finance at Confused.com. She started out on a weekly newspaper, via a national news agency and a stint in the fun but ‘not as glamorous as it appears on screen’ world of TV at the BBC researching consumer films for The One Show.

View more from Naphtalia



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