Traffic Signal Rules in India – Traffic Light Rules

Traffic signals and traffic lights are the most important set of safety rules that drivers and pedestrians must know and immediately recognize. These signals and symbols exist to prevent confusion and maintain order on the roads. Following traffic signals keeps you and others on the roads safe, and prevents traffic snarls, accidents and fatalities.

The meaning of the red, yellow and green traffic lights remains the same worldwide, but the types of traffic signals and regulations may differ country-wise. Read on to find out more about the traffic signal rules in India.  

What are Traffic Signal Rules in India?

Traffic signals are traffic signs that are displayed at the intersection for guiding the movement of the vehicles on roads. The purpose of traffic signals is to maintain complete order and to avoid fatal incidents on roads. The traffic signal works on light signals and includes three colours: red, yellow and green. Here ‘red’ indicates that the vehicles must stop, ‘yellow’ means that the vehicles must slow down and finally ‘green’ means to go ahead. The colours red, yellow and green have been chosen as traffic lights due to their visibility and wavelength compared to the other colours. 

These traffic signal lights help to run the traffic smoothly on the road, and one can easily spot them at the intersections of the road or wherever traffic regulation is mandatory. Traffic signal rules are simple, uncomplicated and the same everywhere in the world. To find out more on traffic lights read on. 

Traffic Light Rules in India

Red Light 


A red light at the traffic signal means “to stop the vehicle” at the signal immediately without driving any further. When a red light is seen at the signal, the driver must follow it strictly; otherwise a hefty traffic fine might be charged for jumping a red light. 

Red Arrow 


A red arrow works the same way as a red light but restricts traffic flow in a particular direction. A left red arrow means that any driver wanting to take a left turn must stop at the red light. This light can often be found on signals where some traffic is allowed to flow while stopping the traffic for a particular direction. 

Flashing Red Light 

A flashing Red Light means to stop, look out for vehicles or the oncoming traffic, and then proceed. In the early hours or when there is visibly less or no traffic on the road this flashing red light is displayed at the traffic signal. Even at railway crossings, the flashing red light is visible at the signal.

 Yellow Light 


When a ‘yellow light’ appears at the signal it indicates that the red light will soon get turned on. So, ‘yellow light’ at the crossing means that vehicles must slow down in expectation of the red light, i.e., before the signal turns red. If the driver has already crossed the junction as the yellow light got turned on, stopping midway is not advised but the driver should drive on so that the flow of the oncoming traffic is not hampered. 

Flashing Yellow Light

‘Flashing Yellow Light’ at an intersection serves as a signal for the driver to slow down their vehicle before proceeding any further. The flashing yellow light appears at the crossing when there is no heavy traffic on the road and can usually be seen late at night and early in the morning. It also means to stay alert while driving and slowing down when required. 

Green Light 


A Green signal at the intersection means to drive ahead. When a green traffic signal is displayed, oncoming traffic has been stopped and it is safe to drive forward. Even so, maintain caution while driving through a green signal as there may be pedestrians or cars jumping a red light.

Green Arrow 


A green arrow is equivalent to a green light at the traffic signal, and indicates movement in a particular direction. This type of green signal can be found at intersections where part of the traffic is stopped while allowing some traffic to continue moving in a different direction.

Types of Traffic Signal Rules in India

There are three types of traffic signals based on their functions and operations. Below are the list and details of the three traffic signals on Indian roads.

1. Traffic Control Signal

The traffic control signals are based on the three-colour light system: red, yellow, and green. The red light means stop, while the yellow means to wait or go slow, and the green light means that the vehicles are allowed to go ahead. Based on the working mechanism, traffic control signals are of three types- 

  • Fixed Time Signal: 

 The Fixed Time Signal operates automatically without manual operation by humans and repeats the cycle of red, yellow, and green lights based on the preset timings which are determined and fixed based on the traffic on the particular road. 

  • Traffic Actuated Signal: 

In this system, the traffic police can modify the timings of the traffic light process based on the intensity of the traffic. For instance, the timings of the lights could be changed depending on the traffic situation on the road.

  • Manually Operated Signal:

This type of signal is manually operated by the traffic police according to the traffic movement on the road and needs attention from the traffic police continuously. That’s why at certain intersections it takes more than usual time for the traffic lights to change as it is manually operated by the traffic policeman and as per the traffic situation on the road throughout the day, the traffic police adjusts the timings.

2. Pedestrian Signal

While traffic lights and signals help the smooth flow of traffic on the road, pedestrian signals work together with the traffic signals providing a safer passage to cross the streets at signalized intersections. 

3. Special Signal/Flashing Signal

A Flashing signal is displayed at the crossing – it could be a red or a yellow flashing signal. When a red flashing signal is displayed it serves more like a warning sign for motor vehicles that means they must stop before the line to check for any oncoming traffic and then cross the intersection, whereas in case of a flashing yellow light at the crossing it means that the motor vehicle drivers must proceed slowly, i.e. with caution. These signals are also called ‘Special Signals’. 

Importance of traffic lights and traffic signals

Traffic lights and traffic signals are mandatory when it comes to road safety. Traffic lights and traffic signals help to manoeuvre moving traffic in order and also protect pedestrians on roads. Here are some reasons why traffic lights and traffic signals are important:  

  • Smooth traffic movement:

With traffic signals, the movement of vehicles on the road is regulated at set intervals ensuring traffic jams are not caused on the intersections. Following the traffic signals ensures traffic flows in an orderly manner.

  • Risk of accidents lowered at the crossings/ junctions

Regulated traffic movement also prevents accidents at intersections as it removes unregulated interaction between oncoming vehicles. This improves safety on the road and reduces Traffic signals at every intersection to help to reduce the chances of accidents on roads as the vehicles move following the indications of the traffic lights. 

  • Traffic lights helps in the movement of the pedestrians

When heavy traffic movement occurs it becomes extremely difficult for pedestrians to cross, but the traffic signals guide pedestrians on when to cross the busy roads. 

Precautions To Follow At Traffic Signals

  • Remember to approach the crossing or intersection cautiously while driving and if any pedestrians are on the zebra crossing, slow down to let them pass first. 
  • Even if the vehicle is at a halt or stopped due to the red signal, one must keep their seat belts on.
  • Avoid unnecessary honking as it produces noise pollution and can be annoying. 
  • One must be cautious while driving at an intersection and look for other vehicles passing by to avoid any collision.
  • One must keep to their left while driving on a 2-way road so that motor vehicles from the opposite direction can pass using the right lane smoothly.
  • Lane discipline will help you navigate traffic signals more efficiently. Keep your car on the left or right lanes if you intend to make a turn in the respective direction. Keep your car in the centre lane to cross the intersection unhindered by cars making a turn.  

The RTA (Road Transport Authority) oversees the smooth functioning of vehicles on roads via traffic signals and traffic lights. The traffic signals and traffic lights are necessary to ensure the safety of the pedestrians and the moving motor vehicles on the road. Increase in road traffic and number of vehicles plying on roads everyday, having a system in place helps drivers to move ahead in congestion and avoid misfortunes. Thus knowledge of the functions of the different traffic signals and the significance of traffic lights do help motorists to drive safely, but disregarding them can cause disorder and accidents.

FAQs on Traffic Signal Rules in India

Q. Do you have to stop at a yield sign at a red light?

A. A yield sign is a regulatory sign seen at intersections. It looks like a triangle pointing downward (downward-pointing triangle). If you spot a yield sign at the crossing, you must slow down and drive cautiously to avoid slamming against another driver or pedestrian approaching from the other direction. And no, you do not have to stop when you see a yield sign at a red light. You must slow down and let the oncoming traffic and pedestrians pass.  

Q. What happens if you run a yellow light and it turns red?

A: If the driver ignores the yellow light and tries to drive past, they have broken the traffic signal. The driver will be liable to a traffic fine that would be the same as driving through a red light. 

Q. How do traffic signals work?

A: A traffic signal system comprises a controller, traffic lights, and detection. The controller in the traffic signal contains the information required for the traffic lights to work as per the needed order. The traffic signals can operate under different modes, relying on location and time of the day.

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