Under the Motor Vehicle Code, a driver can legally enter an intersection if the vehicle's front tires touch the limit line or pedestrian crosswalk line while a signal is still yellow, according to Sgt. Bill Languemi, a code instructor at the California Highway Patrol.
"It is cheating, but it is within the law," he said.
In many cases, these limit lines and pedestrian crosswalk lines are positioned well back from the actual intersection, which is typically defined as the imaginary box formed by the curb lines of the road. I measured the intersection in front of my office, which is across from Los Angeles City Hall, and found the limit lines were 18 feet behind the actual intersection.
Thus, a car can seem to fly through an intersection on a red light and still be legal, so long as the tires hit the limit line on yellow. What's more, the vehicle code gives that car legal possession of the intersection, and cars with the lateral green light must wait for the intersection to clear before entering.