Vehicles allowed through red lights

Doug Paulley made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Transport

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Department for Transport,

Please can you settle one way or the other some rumours going round regarding red traffic lights.

Firstly regarding Royal Mail vans. Rumour is that due to crown immunity or old legislation they can go through red traffic lights with impunity. Also that they don't have to stop when instructed by the Police. Is this true?

Secondly regarding emergency response paramedics not traveling in an ambulance, e.g. those on motorbikes, push bikes or in cars. Can they go through red lights?

Thirdly, rumour is that coast guards cannot go through red lights, and that mountain and cave rescue can only do so when acting on the instructions of police. Is this the case?

Finally can you settle what happens if a set of traffic lights are stuck on red in all directions, e.g. temporary red lights at roadworks that have broken. What can and should drivers legally do? Can they proceed with caution, and if so after what period?

ThanksYours faithfully,

Doug Paulley

Sheila Kissoon, Department for Transport

Thank you for your email. It is being dealt with and you shall receive a
reply within 20 working days from the date of receipt.


Kind regards


Sheila Kissoon

Traffic Signs Mailbox



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TRAFFIC SIGNS, Department for Transport

Dear Mr Paulley


Thank you for your request of 23 April about exemptions to traffic
signals. It has been forwarded to this mailbox and I am pleased to reply
without reference to the Freedom of Information Act 2000.


I will first confirm that traffic signals are prescribed for use by local
traffic authorities in The Traffic Signs Regulations and General
Directions 2002 (TSRGD). Regulation 10 makes it an offence to disobey a
red signal, bringing in Section 36 of the Road Traffic Act 1988.
Regulation 36 [as amended] gives the meanings of signals, including red,
and also sets out which organisations are exempt under certain
circumstances. For completeness it’s fire and rescue, ambulance, bomb and
explosive disposal, national blood service, police, Serious Organised
Crime Agency (SOCA) and special forces. The exemption only applies when
they’re on an emergency call.  


The question of whether ‘fire and rescue authority’ and ‘ambulance’ are
defined so as to include the coastguard and mountain rescue services, and
paramedics on bikes or motorbikes, would need to be put to those
authorities – they will be able to confirm if they are considered an
emergency service.


Unfortunately I am unable to provide any information about Royal Mail vans
as they are not listed in Regulation 36. The question about whether they
don’t have to stop for police is one for the Ministry of Justice and you
may wish to contact them on this issue.


TSRGD is available at –




The Road Traffic Act 1988 can be viewed at –




As to traffic lights that have failed and become stuck on red, it is for
drivers to decide what to do. If they decide to go through and then get a
Fixed Penalty Notice, it is for the driver to prove that the signals were
faulty and they had no option.


I hope that this has clarified the position.


Kind regards


Judith Tracey

Traffic Signs Mailbox


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