Traffic Light and Filter Arrows

How to Deal with Traffic Filter Lights

The basics of traffic lights

The amber light is there to tell you to slow down because the red light is on its way. When your traffic light is red, it probably means that traffic is coming from another direction and if you ignore the amber or the red light, you’ll get in the way of that oncoming traffic.

See Our Video Tutorial on Filter Lights

Traffic Filter Lights

When you should stop

  • When the light is red
  • When the light is amber and you’re behind the line
  • When both red and amber lights are showing
  • If your light is green but cars are still coming from another direction - the lights may be broken!

When you should go

On some traffic lights you might find that there’s a green filter arrow. These are for directing traffic in different lanes.

So if you’re at the traffic lights and you’re turning right, you might find that the main light is red, but the right green filter arrow is also on. This means that you can’t go straight on, but it is safe for you to go right.

It's safe to go when:

  • The green light is showing
  • The green filter light showing your intended direction is on
  • The amber light comes on but you've already driven over the line

Don't just follow the car ahead blindly - wait until the way ahead is clear so you don't have to stop illegally on hatchings or a pedestrian crossing.

Traffic Lights With Filter Arrows

The difference with traffic lights

A green traffic filter light allows traffic to proceed in the direction of the arrow. A directional green filter arrow means that you have priority over traffic as their lights will be on red when you make the turn. As with all junctions be aware of pedestrians and cyclists whilst making the turn. Just because you have priority, there is a possibility of another vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian crossing or being where they shouldn’t be.

Looking At the Correct Light

It is also relatively common for a learner driver to focus primarily on the red light and not notice the green filter light is illuminated allowing you to proceed.

During a driving test, if you have not acknowledged the green filter light for a period of time or the examiner even makes you aware of the illuminated filter, it’s likely to fail your driving test.

A filter light may illuminate before or after the full green phase. Ensure you keep an eye on the filter light as well as the main phase lights.

Green Filter Light Illuminated!

Below follows the rules of the red car turning right at a crossroads where a filter traffic light is directing traffic.

Green Filter Light Illuminated!

If you are turning right as the diagram suggests and the green filter traffic light is illuminated, oncoming traffic will have a red light giving you priority to proceed.

Green Filter Light Not Lit UP

Green filter light not illuminated!

If turning right and your green filter light is not illuminated or it stops, you can still proceed providing the full green light is illuminated. You must however give way to oncoming vehicles and wait at the point of turn.

Traffic Light On Red

Traffic Light Turned Red!


If you are waiting to turn right and the red light illuminates, ensure you exit the junction by turning right when the remaining oncoming vehicles have Stopped.

Never remain inside the junction as you will stop the flow of traffic.

Stop Line and Cycle Box

Traffic Light Stop Line

All traffic lights have a stop line. Advanced stop lines such as the images above allow for cyclists to stop ahead of other vehicles in a bay often in a alternative colour to the road.

All traffic must stop at the first line when the lights are red and avoid entering the cycle bay when stationary.

Blocking The Junction

Slow Moving Traffic!

Traffic jams and slow moving traffic at light controlled junctions often results in frustration for many drivers, particularly when junctions are blocked when your light is green.

Technically it’s not illegal to block a junction unless prohibitions are in force such as the yellow box.

Other advisory notices such as ‘Keep Clear‘ road markings may also be in place.

However, blocking a junction impedes traffic flow, so only enter it when you are certain you can clear it – even if your light is green.

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Traffic Light Cameras

Traffic Light Cameras!

It’s important when approaching traffic lights to be prepared to stop if they change. Running a red light is obviously dangerous and on may traffic lights, cameras are now fitted. Especially on Trench Lock Roundabout in Telford.

There are very few exemptions for running a red light and even a learner driver may find themselves with 3 penalty points on their provisional licence and a fine of £200.

A red light camera can even be triggered if your vehicle stops only slightly over the white line. Of course, this would also result in a driving test failure.

Traffic Lights Not Working?

Traffic Light Failure?

Dealing with a traffic light failure can be daunting for a learner driver. If you find yourself in this position, you must treat the junction or crossroads as unmarked.

With an unmarked junction, nobody has priority.

You must proceed slowly and with caution and only continue when safe to do so.

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