Lighting Sequence

It is a simple thing, yet it shows a major difference between Canada and Germany. The traffic lights here are different.IMG_20190214_1349158

I haven’t asked why, because I think I figured it out on my own. See if this makes sense to you.

In Canada the traffic light sequence is green (go), yellow (caution) and red. It is the same here, except there is a second yellow light between red and green. (trying to get a good picture of this challenged my phone, or maybe my patience. I dislike waiting at traffic lights – especially when there is no reason for it.)

I think that is because cars are different here. They all have four wheels and look pretty much the same, but there is a big difference you can’t see just by looking. IMG_20190207_0951127

In Canada, most vehicles have automatic transmissions. In Germany almost everyone drives a car with standard/manual transmission. As you know, you drive each type a little differently.

When I learned to drive a manual transmission car, I was told that at a stop light you put the car in neutral until the light changes. In practice no-one does that – you just keep the car in gear with the clutch depressed so it doesn’t go anywhere. That way you can be quicker off the mark when the light changes.

My guess is that the yellow light between the red and green signals is a warning to those driving with a manual transmission. It gives you that couple of seconds needed to get your vehicle into gear. That of course assumes you were driving as you were taught. IMG_20190207_0951137

I did mention that theory to one German, who found it to be a strange idea, but admitted they didn’t know why the sequence was the way it is. As far as I am concerned, my explanation is the valid one – unless someone can come up with something else that explains it better. (Feel free to try by leaving a comment below.)

I have no idea why automatic transmission vehicles, which are easier to drive, haven’t caught on here. I’m sure it says something about the respective cultures, but I have no idea what.


  1. Somewhere in my past I have seen this done in a North American jurisdiction before we started traveling.

  2. Her’es an on-line annwer: Traffic signals in Germany use the same red, yellow, and green lights found in the US and elsewhere. Red, of course, means STOP. Green means PROCEED with caution, and yellow means PREPARE TO STOP. In Germany, however, an extra indication is added: just before the light changes from red to green, the yellow signal comes on briefly in conjunction with the red. This means PREPARE FOR GREEN and is helpful if you are driving a manual transmission to give you a bit of warning to get into gear. Figure 1 (left) shows the signal cycle.

    1. So I was right. Good to know my deductive reasoning still works. Thanks for looking it up.

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