Alabama Traffic Light Laws

Alabama uses a variety of traffic-control devices.

Title 32 Chapter 5A of the Alabama Code includes statues that define the rules for anyone traversing the roads and highways within the state. Sections 32-5A-30 through 32-5A-37 contain specific guidelines that cover the variety of traffic-control devices that regulate the flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The guidelines stipulate procedural standards and the rules and responsibilities for drivers and pedestrians when a traffic-control device is encountered.

Compliance Requirement

Drivers and pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to emergency vehicles.

Section 32-5A-31 requires drivers to comply with Alabama’s traffic-control device rules. The rules are based on the assumption that the traffic-control devices are working properly and are not obstructed from view. The statue cites the presence of an engaged emergency vehicle or the presence of a traffic-control officer as an exception to the compliance requirement. When an officer is present, drivers and pedestrians must follow the officer’s instructions even if they differ from those of the traffic signals.

Traffic-signal Indicators

Traffic signals control the flow of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Section 32-5A-32 defines the procedures and allowable maneuvers when encountering the circular lights of a traffic signal. Drivers and pedestrians facing a circular green traffic signal may proceed forward. Drivers may turn right or left when it is permitted and safe to do so. The circular yellow traffic signal is a warning to drivers and pedestrians that the green light period is about to end. Drivers and pedestrians facing a circular red traffic signal must not proceed forward. Drivers are required to stop at the appropriate marking. Pedestrians that wish to proceed forward must stand until the traffic light changes to green. Drivers wishing to make a permitted turn may do so after stopping and ensuring that it is safe.

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Turn-control Indicators

Arrows control the flow of traffic that is turning.

Section 32-5A-32 also defines the maneuvers that are permitted when the traffic-control device includes a turn indicator. Drivers approaching a green arrow signal may make the indicated turn when it is safe to do so. The driver must be prepared to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and vehicles that are lawfully using the intersection. A yellow arrow indicates that the green arrow period has ended, and the red arrow will soon appear. The driver must stop for the red arrow. After stopping, the driver is permitted to continue their right turn when it is safe. This also applies to drivers that are turning left from a one-way street.

Lane-control Indicators

Lane-control indicators are typically found on bridges and major highways.

Section 32-5A-35 provides the guidelines for lane-direction-control signals. These signals are used to inform drivers of which lanes are in use. A green indicator would let the driver know that the lane is open to traffic. A yellow indicator warns of the need to proceed in a cautionary manner. The red indicator informs drivers that the lane is closed to traffic and should not be used.

Pedestrian-control Indicators

Pedestrian-control signal

Section 32-5A-33 stipulates the procedures that are to be followed when encountering pedestrian-control signals. Pedestrian-control signals may be posted in the form of words or symbols. Pedestrians faced with a “WALK” signal may enter and complete the crosswalk. When faced with a flashing “DON’T WALK” signal, the pedestrian must not enter the crosswalk. When there is a steady “DON’T WALK” signal, the pedestrian is not permitted to enter the crosswalk. If the flashing “DON’T WALK” signal starts or changes to the steady “DON’T WALK” signal while the pedestrian is in the crosswalk, she must proceed to the nearest sidewalk or safety island.

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Flashing Indicators

Stop immediately for flashing red lights.

Section 32-5A-34 defines vehicular traffic procedures for red or yellow flashing lights. Drivers are required to stop when approaching a flashing red light. The driver may proceed when it is safe to do so. The guidelines for a flashing red light are the same as those for a stop sign. A flashing yellow light is a caution signal. If it is safe, drivers may proceed without stopping.

Railroad grade crossings are equipped with flashing red lights. Stop immediately when the lights begin to flash. Crossing gates will often accompany the flashing red lights. If the gates are not lowered, you are still required to stop. Do not proceed until all tracks are cleared. Section 32-5A-150 addresses the procedures that are required for railroad grade crossings.