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Beating the Light: a duty to avoid yellow light accidents

It is a scenario that plays out far too often. A motor vehicle approaches an intersection, the light changes from green to yellow. An instant impulse triggers the driver to press the gas pedal a little harder in a fight to beat the light before it turns red. Many make it through without a problem. Unfortunately, that is not always the outcome. Punching it to beat the yellow light can also result in a serious accident or fatality.

When a driver becomes so worried about running a red light, he or she often neglects to pay attention to other cars and vehicles. To determine whether to proceed at a yellow light, it is helpful to reference the driving rules set forth by The Missouri Department of Revenue Driver’s Handbook, which states:

“A steady yellow light tells you the traffic signal is changing from green to red. Stop for a steady yellow light unless you are within the intersection or are so close that you cannot safely stop before entering the intersection.”

Additionally, everyone operating a motor vehicle has the duty to drive with the highest degree of care. This means even if one party has the right of way, he or she must still proceed with caution. The following are more tips motorists should always keep in mind:

  • Look out for bikes, walkers, cars and motorcycles that may be crossing the intersection.
  • Keep a careful and diligent lookout; watching both ahead and laterally to observe traffic on the roadway.
  • Maintain a safe speed in relation to the road conditions, weather and independent circumstances.
  • Have the vehicle under such control that it could be readily and reasonably stopped or swerved upon the first appearance of danger.
  • Obey all traffic signals and laws.
  • Maintain a safe trailing distance of at least one car length per 10 miles per hour (mph) you are traveling, or two seconds for speeds up to 35 mph.

If everyone drove with the highest degree of care, there would be fewer automobile accidents. The attorneys at Padberg, Corrigan & Appelbaum have represented far too many families who have lost loved ones in yellow light accidents that could have been prevented. In a recent case, both parties had a yellow light and a duty to drive safely. The Plaintiff was on a motorcycle, making a left-hand turn at the intersection. The Defendant was driving an automobile in oncoming traffic straight through the intersection when he collided with the motorcyclist.

In this particular case, the Defendant did not keep a careful lookout ahead and did not swerve, brake or take any evasive action to avoid this collision. A reconstruction expert attested that if the Defendant would have taken evasive action, the collision would have been avoided. Investigation into the crash found that a third vehicle likely blocked the Plaintiff’s line of sight and the Defendant admitted to accelerating in an attempt to “beat the light.”

Although the Defendant technically had the right of way, it was ultimately determined that the Defendant was equally at fault. He did not drive with the highest degree of care on the day of the crash and thus, contributed to the death of the Plaintiff. Padberg, Corrigan & Appelbaum attorneys helped the Plaintiff’s family resolve the case without having to go to trial. Although this lawsuit will not bring back their loved one, the settlement will help to reduce the family’s financial stresses in the years to come.

If you, or someone you know, were injured in a yellow light accident in St. Louis, Missouri or a surrounding area, contact the law office of Padberg, Corrigan & Appelbaum today for a free consultation.


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