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Oregon Traffic Signal Laws

Oregon traffic signal laws are very specific about a driver’s responsibility to watch out for all traffic signals, as well as the appropriate responses to traffic control devices. They are also very clear on what is deemed to be a violation of those laws. Generally speaking ORS 811.260 deals with how a driver should respond to every traffic control sign and device used in Oregon, and ORS 811.265 specifies those actions that result in a breach of traffic laws.

Only 12 devices and signals actually make up the list, but failure to heed any of them can lead to prosecution and worse. Thousands of Oregon drivers every year consult auto accident attorneys in Portland because they have been injured by drivers who simply felt the devices and controls didn’t apply to them.

The traffic control devices and a driver’s appropriate response to those devices, dealt with under ORS 811.260 include:

  • The green signal. While it normally gives permission to go ahead or turn right or left, this isn’t the case if other drivers already occupy the intersection, or if a sign is in place prohibiting a turn in either direction.
  • Green arrows allow a driver to proceed with caution, but only to make the movement permitted by the green arrow signal, or other signals shown at the same time.
  • A steady circular yellow means a red will soon follow, and any right of way you have is about to be terminated. You should stop before a stop line or before entering the intersection if there is no line.
  • A steady yellow arrow signal is giving the same warning. A red light will follow shortly, and the driver should stop before the intersection. If you’re moving too fast to stop safely, the law permits you to drive cautiously through the intersection, if that intersection is clear.
  • We all know red lights mean stop and stay stopped. The only two exceptions are if a policeman directing traffic indicates that you should move, or if you are permitted a turn (usually a right turn) under ORS 811.360. Otherwise, stay put until the light turns green.
  • A red arrow is usually shown in conjunction with other indicators. In any event, it means a turn in the direction of the arrow is not permitted.
  • Traffic signals are occasionally put up at places other than intersections. In this event, the same rules apply regarding red, yellow and green circular and arrow signs as they would at an intersection. Signs that indicate a stop should be made, or which disallow certain movements, must also be observed and obeyed.
  • Flashing red lights are often the source of great debate among drivers and the source of a considerable number of clients for auto accident attorneys in Portland. In the most basic terms, flashing red lights should be treated exactly the same as an ordinary stop sign. In other words, stop at the intersection, look both ways for oncoming traffic and only proceed when it is safe to do so.
  • A flashing yellow signal is not the same as a flashing red, but it does indicate that a driver should proceed through the intersection with great caution. The best approach is to treat a flashing yellow signal as if it were a yield sign.
  • Lane direction control signals are found over highways. If red signal light is shown over any lane, it is illegal to enter that lane or to drive in it for any reason.
  • Stop signs are probably the second most ignored or ill-treated traffic control devices on Oregon roads. How many times have you seen drivers roll through them at barely reduced speeds, or carry on without coming to a complete stop? Stop means stop! Afterward, proceed only when you have the right of way and it’s completely safe to proceed.
  • If stop signs are the second most ignored, yield signs must come in at number one. The law is quite clear on the matter. Drivers approaching a yield sign are supposed to slow down to a safe speed for the existing conditions, then stop if required to yield the right of way to vehicles already in, or approaching, the intersection.

Failure to follow any of the relatively simple and sensible measures listed above is a violation of ORS 811.265, leaving the driver open to a variety of fines and other sanctions, including suspension of driving privileges. The only time traffic control devices can be disregarded is if a police officer directs you to do otherwise, or if you’re driving an ambulance, fire truck or some other emergency vehicle, or if you’re in a funeral procession with an officially recognized lead car.

If you are the victim of one of those drivers who thought the signs, lights, rules, and regulations were for everyone else, and you’ve been injured as a result, then don’t hesitate. After you’ve received the medical treatment you need, contact our car accident lawyers in Portland. They will explain to you what’s involved in making a claim against a negligent driver, and they will deal with the insurance companies for you. They will also formulate a claim for compensation on your behalf, based on your medical expenses, loss of income, property damage, pain and suffering, and ongoing medical treatment. What’s more, they’ll guide you through the entire process, from beginning to end.