Superstition: Running a Yellow Light


Fordham University/University of Southern California

Army ROTC, EMT, Social Worker

Military Social Work



24 April 2011

Superstition- touching car roof

“Here’s something I can tell you. About a month ago I got a ticket in the mail for running a red light. You know, one of those automated deals were they show you the picture of it and everything. It’s really funny ’cause in the picture you can clearly see my left hand touching the inside roof of my car. Basically, when your driving through a yellow…you kiss the tips of your fingers and then place them against the roof of your car.” HS explained that the reason she did this was for luck and to ward off accidents. She stated that she started doing it because it she saw her older brother do it all the time when she was in the car with him. She said she also did it because while an EMT in New York she saw many horrific traffic accidents, and she didn’t want that to happen to her.

From my perspective, touching the roof of your car as you drive through a yellow light is a simple gesture to ward off possible calamity and for luck. It’s a superstition akin to knocking on wood after saying something is going really good.  Looking at the gesture, I would say that it’s functions within a liminal space for three reasons. The first is that the vehicle is actually occupying a space where cars can cross from any direction; it’s in between the beginning and end of the intersection. The second reason is that it is a place that can be dangerous, if people are not paying attention. The third reason is that, when driving, going through a yellow light is kind of a grey area. As a driver you not supposed to really do it, but all drivers do at some point. I personally have never done it,and the reason I probably don’t is because no one in my family does it. In this sense, the touching of the roof can be a gesture learned from friends or family.