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Running a Red Light / Stop Sign

It may be the most universal of traffic signals: the red light. We all know what it means when we see it: Stop. Same goes for the ubiquitous red stop sign. Yet, from coast to coast, every day there are citations being written for running stop lights or stop signs.

A red light ticket can result from a lot of different driving maneuvers. A driver may not stop long enough (the famed "California stop" or "rolling stop") or a traffic camera could snap a photo of a driver while still in the intersection. It all depends on the regulations and enforcement in your specific area.

Traffic Control Statutes 

All states carry traffic laws that specifically require "obedience to traffic control signals and devices" (or similarly-worded language), meaning that drivers must observe and obey all traffic lights and stop signs when operating vehicles.

The most common traffic violation associated with traffic control signals and devices is "running" a red light or stop sign -- when a driver proceeds through an intersection:

  • While a red light (or red turn arrow) is displayed on a traffic signal, or
  • Without coming to a complete stop and following right-of-way requirements when a "stop" sign is posted.

Lawful Turns on Red Lights

State traffic laws related to traffic control devices usually allow drivers to execute a turn on a red light only in certain situations. For example, drivers may make a right turn at an intersection on a red light if there is no sign prohibiting "right on red", and if it is safe to do so under the circumstances. Similarly, some states allow a left turn on a red light when a driver is turning left from one one-way street onto another one-way street, and it is safe to turn under the traffic (vehicle and pedestrian) conditions.

  • Running a Red Light / Stop Sign: Laws in All 50 States
  • Next Steps
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