did stoplights ever turn yellow before green?

I swear I remember as a kid this being the case, but it was so long ago, I wonder if this is just a false memory?


They do here in the UK.

(although I should mention that before green, the amber and red lights are illuminated together (so that you can tell at a glance which way they are changing)).

Murasaki312a, perhaps you are thinking about the old red-green (no yellow) traffic lights that used to be pretty common years ago, but no longer. They’d go from green to green+red to red; the green+red phase served the same function as today’s yellow.

(Hijack: A guy here in NYC recently published a picture book called Oddball New York. One section contained a few rusty, forgotten vestiges of bygone Olde New York – old-style street signs that the DOT never bothered to replace with newer versions… that sort of thing. The author managed to find one or two red-green traffic lights still in operation on sleepy side streets somwehere in the five boroughs.)

The green - amber - red - red+amber - green sequence was used in Victoria (Australia).

IIRC it has been discontinued, but I can’t recall when.

They still do in Germany, without any dual-illuminations. It’s straight green-yellow-red-yellow-green. I just finished up working in Frankfurt for a month, and it took me a little while to get used to.

Israel does it U.K. style.

I actually prefer it - gives you time to straighten up, get into gear and put your feet on the right pedals before the light goes green. The instant light changes in the U.S. kind of freak me out, and always make me feel like I’m holding up the guy behind me.

I can see why this never caught on in the U.S. Especially where I live, it’s considered a good idea to wait at least three seconds for the idiot on the cross street who will inevitably blow the red light.

The instant green (US style) here in Australia isn’t so bad because everyone is at the same disadvantage (although I feel vulnerable sometimes with my manual gearbox when the auto driver behind me sees the brakelights go out and steps on it ASAP). Like most Sydney revheads, I tend to be watching the faint glow of light on the black metal casing of the traffic signals on the cross street to give me some warning.

I have heard that in Melbourne, decades ago, they had a large stopwatch-type dial below the lights which gave a countdown to the change to green.

I was in Germany around 1989 in the Heidelberg area. They had the dual red+amber for a couple seconds before the green. Either Germany has changed recently or they don’t have a uniform system throughout the country.

They are starting to appear in Japan, but only for pedestrians. Probably an effort to reduce jaywalking.

In downtown Indianapolis, USA, some of the lights have a digital countdown on the red. Some others there have a countdown on the walk/wait pedestrian lights.

one city in India i’ve been to does it too (Bangalore)… the rest of the cities don’t… strange, no ?

Maybe I was thinking of those signals that start races by moving from red to yellow to green.


That’s why, here in South Australia, that there is a 3-4 second lag where all signals on the intersection are red. It gives time for the intersection to clear, especially for those attempting to turn right across heavy oncoming traffic.

There are some pedestrian crossing lights in Sydney that flash the yellow for about 10 seconds before the green comes back on, and it is allowed to progress thru the crossing during the yellow flashing if there are no pedestrians still on the crossing.

I believe we borrowed the idea from UK ‘pelican’ crossings.

The last time I was in Germany there was dual-light (this was in january). I can’t imagine they have changed it by now. In Finland it is also “UK-style”. (I dare to call it European style).

I’ve seen UK style lights in some rural areas of Illinois and Wisconsin. I always thought the lights around my grandmother’s house were broken, but she assured me that there was sense to it.

And right you are to dare call it European style Nils. We agred in the EU that traffic light sequencing be equal across Europe and red-yellow to green and green to yellow to red is now the standard. IIRC the measure was passed in 1997 and all states had to fully comply by 2000. Isn’t it nice to know that our parliament worries about the essentials in life?


I have been in Bogotá, Colombia and the style there is red+yellow to green and green to yellow to red. I don’t like that style, because it gives people a clue that the light is going to change to green and the traffic starts moving prematurely. Of course, living in the USA, I am accustomed to the red to green and green to yellow to red style. So, that is what I like.