Green man flashing? Don’t start crossing! Running amber lights? It’s illegal

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12th December 2023 – (Hong Kong) Yesterday, the Hong Kong Police initiated a large-scale citywide traffic enforcement operation aimed at curbing jaywalking and red light violations. Undercover officers are now patrolling the streets, ready to issue on-the-spot fines of HK$2,000 to offenders. Many pedestrians mistakenly believe that they can still cross the road when the pedestrian signal is flashing a green man. However, according to the Transport Department’s website, pedestrians are not allowed to start crossing the road when the green man is flashing. They should only proceed if they are already crossing when the signal begins to flash, and at a reasonable speed. Failure to comply, without a valid explanation from a uniformed officer or a traffic marshal, can result in a fine.

Running a red light is not always a cut-and-dried offence. The circumstances surrounding the violation are taken into account. For instance, if a motorist runs a red light to save someone’s life in the event of an accident, it could be considered a valid defence.

Additionally, many drivers mistakenly believe that they can continue driving when the traffic light turns amber. However, once the amber light is illuminated, drivers are required to stop. Failure to do so can result in a fine of HK$5,000 and a three-month imprisonment. Repeat offenders may face a fine of HK$10,000 and a six-month imprisonment.

Although pedestrians are not allowed to start crossing when the green figure is flashing, they can continue crossing if they have already started. The most common defence given by offenders is “misreading the signal.” However, misinterpreting the traffic signal is considered a personal error and is not a valid defence. If every individual were to use “misreading the signal” as an excuse, law enforcement would become ineffective. Luk Wai-hung emphasized that running a red light is not always strictly enforced. For example, if a pedestrian rushed through a red light to save someone involved in a traffic accident, it would be considered a reasonable defence. Furthermore, Luk Wai-hung noted that some traffic lights may lack sound signals, making it difficult for visually impaired individuals to distinguish between red and green lights. In such cases, this can be used as a valid defence.

It is important to note that when the amber light is illuminated, drivers must stop. According to the Transport Department’s website, drivers should stop unless they are too close to the intersection or pedestrian crossing, and abruptly stopping could cause an accident. Violating traffic lights or traffic signs can result in a fine of HK$5,000 and a three-month imprisonment for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders may face a fine of HK$10,000 and a six-month imprisonment.

In general, when it comes to “running the amber light,” it depends on the braking distance. If a vehicle is very close to the signal when it turns amber, it may proceed. However, if the distance between the vehicle and the signal is about two car lengths and the speed is 50 kilometres per hour, the vehicle should be able to stop. If the distance is only one car length, it becomes more challenging, and it would be reasonable to continue driving through the amber light.