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Traffic lights are among the very first difficulties that you’ll face when you learn how to drive. They’ll surface in both your driving theory test and your practical driving test. They’re not especially complex, but you need to make certain you comprehend what the traffic signal series indicates and how to respond to it. Failure to respond correctly to traffic lights could cause you to fail your driving test or, even worse, cause a fender bender.

What are traffic lights?

Traffic lights are sets of two or more coloured lights which inform road users if it’s safe and/or legal to cross the path of other road users. In the UK, the colours used are green, amber and red. These colours are lit up in a specific 4-phase pattern which is known as the traffic light sequence.

What is the sequence of UK traffic lights?

traffic light sequence 

In the UK, many traffic lights follow this series:

Red – stop
Red and amber – prepare to go
Green – go (as long as the way is clear).
Amber – stop unless it’s not safe to do so.

The traffic light sequence described.

Red – An illuminated red traffic light shows that all roadway users need to stop behind the line. The signal applies to everyone, even cyclists. Disregarding the traffic light is a big risk and could get you in quite a bit of trouble. Some traffic lights even have cheeky little cams concealed inside them to spot people who run red lights leading to a fine and penalty points.

Red and amber – Red and amber traffic lights lit up together shows that the lights will change to green which it’s fine for road users to get ready to go. You might release your handbrake and prepare to set off, however you must not cross the line until the light turns green.

Green – When the green traffic signal is illuminated it implies that you may continue, as long as the path is clear.

Amber – The amber traffic light suggests that you should stop unless it’s not safe to do so. It’s legal to travel through an amber light, but you only need to do so if you’re too close to stop when it changes; do not make a habit of it.

Traffic light stop lines.

All sets of traffic lights will have a line at which drivers must stop. In some cases, there’ll be a different, coloured section suggested for cyclists in front of the stop line; make certain to stay behind the line and don’t stray into the cyclists’ area.

Filter traffic lights.

Filter traffic lights let roadway users understand who has priority. They’re typically used in areas prone to congestion and you’ll see variations with arrows pointing left, right and straight ahead. When the green arrow is lit, you may continue, regardless of what the other lights are stating.

Tips for traffic control in your driving test.

If you’re approaching a set of traffic lights and they’ve been green for a while, chances are that they’ll alter extremely quickly. Don’t speed up in an attempt to ‘beat’ the lights.