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Feifer & Greenberg, LLP
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31 Aug2009

Top 5 things to know about Red Lights in New York.

1.   There are no right turns on a red light in NYC.  If there is a sign there specifically stating that such a turn is allowed, then it’s allowed.  Otherwise, it is prohibited in all five boroughs.  “I didn’t know” won’t cut it in court should it come to that.

2.  A red light camera ticket is not a moving violation.  The camera cannot identify a particular driver and a moving violation summons cannot therefore be issued against a particular person’s driver license.  Red light camera tickets are treated as parking violations and are issued to the registrant.  If you are the registered owner, you are officially on the hook if a camera snaps a picture of your car disobeying a red light regardless of who was driving just like you’d be responsible for a parking ticket regardless of who actually parked the car.

3.  There is no standard with respect to the length of time a yellow light phase lasts.  Some are shorter and some are longer.  It’s a product of engineering work done at each intersection which considers a number of factors including the traffic flow, the average speed of traffic and the typical visibility a motorist has when approaching the intersection.  The idea with setting the yellow phase is to minimize the number of drivers who enter the “dilemma zone” which is the point on the roadway, while approaching the intersection, where a driver is just not sure what to do and has to decide whether to stop at the intersection or continue through as the light is in the process of changing to red.

4.  Red arrows mean you cannot proceed in the direction the arrow is facing regardless of what other signals (such as an ordinary green disc) are facing you as well.  A flashing red light is the same as a stop sign.

5.  You are permitted to enter an intersection at any point prior to the light entering it’s red phase.  “Entering” the intersection means passing whatever is deemed to be the stopping point at the intersection.  A stopping point is usually a crosswalk or stop line but in some cases is simply the curb lines of the intersecting roadways.  Note that if you were issued a traffic ticket for disobeying a red light, the officer does not feel the light was anything other than red at the time you entered the intersection.