Ask LH: When Is It OK To Ignore Traffic Lights?

Hi Lifehacker, I was at traffic lights the other day and despite waiting for ages, the sequence never included the left turn I needed to make. After six sequences, I drove through carefully on a red arrow when there was no risk. Can I get booked for this? And if I do, should everyone else who did it get booked too? Thanks, Straight Arrow

Dear SA,

Australia's major road networks are monitored and managed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If a light was faulty when you passed it, traffic control will have a log of it. You should be able to get confirmation that the light wasn't working by calling the roads authority in your state or territory. I've included the relevant contact details below:

This should be sufficient evidence to successfully contest a fine in court, should you happen to receive one. (In fact, you should be able to have it quashed by simply requesting a review and sending through your proof.)

The accuracy of red light cameras have proven to be less than perfect in recent years, so the law should hopefully be on your side. Best of luck!

See also: Never Get A Red Light Camera Ticket Again With This GPS Hack

Cheers Lifehacker

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    I notice this a lot when on my motorcycle. A lot of the sensors simply don't recognise the bike, and I have to wait until a car comes along for the lights to trigger. It's ridiculously frustrating at times.

      My best strategy is looking for the two plates where the car's left and right wheels would be and riding through the centre of them (if you can see them, that is!).

      Often I inch forward as much as I can and will the driver behind me to follow and trigger the light.

        This has happened to me as well - I've found (sometimes), that rocking back and forth over where I think the sensor is (holding in the front brake) , or doing a (maybe a tad reckless) quick-stop over the sensor helps.

      I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure traffic lights use a magnetic field to sense the massive metal of a car. It might be easier to stick a strong magnet on the bottom of your bike to make it sense it easier.

        Yep, I'm 99% sure (and too could be wrong) that there is an inductor under the road that is the sensor and nor a pressure sensor.

    I'm not sure you actually answered Straight Arrow's question, which if I understand correctly was:

    "The phasing of the lights did not include the green arrow I needed, so after waiting a reasonable period of time, I carefully drove through the red arrow. Will I get in trouble for this?"

    Let's assume that the light wasn't faulty and it just didn't detect their vehicle. I'm interested in what the official responses for this are, because this occasionally happens to motorcycle riders and cyclists.

    Last edited 12/02/15 3:04 pm

    I have had similar happen on a scooter before. In WA many traffic lights have a marking on the road surface to indicate where cyclists should sit to trigger the lights. If it isn't marked looking at the road and seeing where they have cut to place the wires also works.

    One light didn't have any cuts or markings on the turning lane and no matter where I sat I couldn't get the signal to trigger. Ended up running the red light as I had no other choice.

    All you need to do in this situation, if the lights are not faulty, is get out of your car/off your bike and hit an appropriate pedestrian crossing button that will invariably be located near you. It will trigger the lights to change.

      Perhaps I'm missing something, but I can't think of which pedestrian crossing option would automatically trigger a green left turn arrow if the default doesn't display one. From the OP's post, it seems that the lights were changing through their cycle, just not including the specific left turn arrow.

        Only way they would have a red arrow/light for a left turn(unless already pedestrians crossing on the road their turning into) is if the road they are on is showing red and the lights never cycle. Just pushing the ped button will trigger the lights to go through a cycle.

      I have actually been in a taxi late at night when the taxi driver did this. Scared the crap out of me at first because I was half asleep on the way home and suddenly the taxi driver got out an appeared to walk off. Once I realised what he was doing though I thought it was pretty clever.

    Or if you're from Ballarat:

    The Human race has come pretty damn far(but now we've regressed so much in the last 200 years) now stopped at an intersection because of..
    Lights and paint on the road.. why..

      While I am of the opinion road laws should be obeyed at all times, I've often marvelled at this myself. A line of paint and a specific wavelength of light is sufficient to stop (most) people controlling a heavy, fast-moving vehicle and keep them there until the light changes. When you think about it, it almost seems ridiculous.

    Question didn't mention red light camera at all. Not sure why the answer included that.

    I've ran a suburban red light in the past. Why am I waiting at a suburban t-section for 3 minutes at 2am? Something wasn't right so I just went through it after waiting the aforementioned time.

      Because he asked "Can i get booked for this?" He obviously didn't get a ticket at the time, so was asking in case he got a ticket in the mail.

    You'd want to hope that what I saw this morning on the way to work doesn't happen: driver in BMW X5 busted a red light and car stopped next to them was unmarked police car. Instant karma.

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