A drivers' guide to the traffic signal lights in the Philippines

Updated Nov 17, 2020 | Same topic: Survive driving in the Philippines

The traffic signal light is not just as simple as stop, slow down, and go. Learn more about it here!

At the early age of seven or eight, you might have learned about the different colors of the traffic signal light: the classic Red, Yellow, and Green that correspond to stop, slow down or wait, and go. This is a knowledge that every child in the Philippines has gained since we all need to commute and use the pedestrian at some point in our lives.

However, little did we know that the basic three colors are not enough. There is more to it. In fact, some drivers have forgotten them and do not actually practice what is supposed to be done when the traffic light changes.

That being said, let this post from Philkotse.com helps you recall and refresh your memory, or educate you, whether you are a driver or a regular commuter or someone who just uses the pedestrian.

I. Traffic Signal Lights and Their Meanings

Some of us may not have noticed but the Philippines is one of the luckiest countries to have a lot of traffic lights along the national and local highways. Unfortunately, we don’t really maximize its use.

In fact, in some cities or towns, traffic enforcers are even present to manage the traffic flow, even if the traffic lights are functioning properly. Hence, let’s start by understanding these lights in depth.

1. Steady and Flashing Red Light

It is a known fact that when the traffic light turns red, as a driver, you need to make a full stop. This also means that you need to allow people to cross the pedestrian. With the red light on, you can also make a red turn against it, as long as there is no longer pedestrian and vehicle traffic. You can also do so if you do not see any signs that say “No Turn on Red”.

Red traffic light

Red light means stop

2. Red Arrow Light

Almost similar to the standard red light, a red light with an arrow sign means that you are not allowed to proceed in the direction where the arrow is pointing. That is until the red arrow light is gone or the green arrow sign appears.

In contrast to the red stop light (circle), you are not allowed to turn against a red arrow light. Additionally, when the red arrow starts to flash, you must make a complete stop before you proceed.

>>> Further reading: A Deeper Understanding of the Different Road Signs in the Philippines

Different arrows traffic light meaning

The Different Arrows and Their Meaning

3. Steady and Flashing Yellow Light

The yellow light is actually the most misunderstood traffic signal in the Philippines. This light indicates that the red light, which means stop, is about to appear. Hence, drivers should stop (when it’s safe) or when not in an intersection.

If you just need to slow down, like you are in the middle of an intersection, you must make sure that you carefully look at the oncoming traffic from the intersection and safely drive your car before the red light appears.

>>> Related: What does a blinking yellow traffic light mean?

Yellow traffic Light

Yellow light: the most misunderstood traffic signal

4. Yellow Arrow

A yellow arrow simply means that the red arrow is about to appear. As such, you need to stop if you are not in the intersection, If in case you are in an intersection, proceed with caution.

5. Flashing Yellow Arrow

This indicates that you are allowed to proceed to the area where the arrow is pointing. However, make sure that you do this with caution and you have yielded the oncoming traffic.

Flasing yellow arrow light

Be cautious: You have yielded the oncoming traffic

6. Green Light

The green light is also often the most abused traffic signal colors, especially in the Philippines. Since it indicates “Go”, drivers often do not care about people and bicycle crossing, causing accidents.

That being said, although green means go, you have to make sure that you allow those who are still on the pedestrian to cross before you even proceed.

Green light traffic

Ensure to allow the pedestrian to cross first when you go ahead with the green light

Similarly, when the green light is on, turning left is not always allowed. You must make sure that space is enough for you to turn completely and you won’t become a hazard or a source of traffic.

In case you can make a left turn, you also consider the fact that those heading straight from the other direction are a priority. Additionally, a green light does not also mean that you can enter an intersection. You should ensure that you have enough space before doing so.

7. Green Arrow

Again, green means “go”, so it has the same meaning as the standard green light. However, for a green arrow, you are allowed to turn right or left, depending on the direction of the arrow.

II. Other Signals

Apart from the basic traffic signal and their meaning that we have discussed above, there are also other signals that both drivers and pedestrian crossers should understand. 

1. Walking Person

As self-explanatory as it may seem, a walking person symbol light means that you can cross the pedestrian. In the Philippines, it usually has different colors, such as green and red, indicating go and stop, respectively. Some walking person symbols will start to walk fast when the walk safely light is about to turn red.

Walking person traffic light

2. Raised or Upraised Hand

This may not be a common symbol in the Philippines, but it is something that one should learn, especially those who travel a lot. A steady, raised hand signal light means that no individual should cross or approach the pedestrian. That is because they will have no time to reach the other direction or side of the street.

Raised Hand traffic light

Do NOT Proceed

>>> Read more: Random Signs and Numbers on the Road: What Does It Mean?

3. Timer

Most of the time, a traffic signal light will be accompanied by a timer. This is usually called the timer signal. It indicates the time you have remaining to either cross the street or drive your car to a certain direction.

For example, if the timer near a green light flashes 15, it means that you only have 15 seconds left before the light changes.

Traffic light_timer

The timer is for the corresponding traffic light color or symbol

III. The traffic light is for safety

The traffic signal light is an important concept that drivers and the public should learn and understand for the safety of everyone. That being said, it should always be kept in mind that even if you’re rushing, the concept of “give and take” should be practiced.

If the light is green and someone is still crossing and driving on the intersection, wait until they are safe. Likewise, if you are crossing and/or are in the middle of the pedestrian or intersection when the light turns green, move fast with caution.

>>> Click here to get more helpful tips and advice for your safe driving 

Charisse Kim

Charisse Kim


Charisse has joined Philkotse since July 2018 as a part-time content writer. Besides writing high-quality SEO articles, Charisse also works as a content editor and provides coaching sessions to her teammates.

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