NYS Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) §1111 dictates that you are to stop at a red light when you are approaching an intersection and facing a red signal. Specifically, the law says:
“Traffic…shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, then shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or in the event there is no crosswalk, at the point nearest the intersection roadway where the driver has a view of the approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering the intersection and shall remain standing until an indication to proceed.”
The law is simply stating that when you approach an intersection with a traffic light, you need to stop if the light is red. If there is a marked stop line on the road, that’s where you stop. If there is no marked line but there is a crosswalk present, your front bumper cannot enter the crosswalk, meaning you need to some to a stop before it.
If there is no line or crosswalk, you must stop before the intersection in such a way that you can see traffic approaching from all other directions. Basically, it’s a “curb line” or some common sense spot where you stop and clearly it’s somewhere prior to the point where you’re in danger of interfering with the traffic flow on the intersecting roadway.
Regardless of where you stop, drivers are free to proceed through the intersection when the light turns green.
The law also says that when the light is a steady yellow, drivers may proceed through the intersection but should be aware that the light is about to turn red. If you aren’t able to safely make it through the intersection, you should come to a stop instead of proceeding.
In essence, this law simply dictates that you follow any traffic signal present and the color of said signal tells you all you need to know. Green means go, yellow means proceed with caution, and red means stop.
While the most common traffic signal we see cited is the solid red light, this is a good place to mention a couple of other signals one may encounter.
Flashing red light. This is the equivalent of a stop sign. Come to a complete stop and you may proceed through the flashing red light once it’s safe to do so.
Steady green arrow. This is the equivalent of an ordinary green light except you may proceed ONLY in the direction the arrow is facing. Many people mistake a green arrow pointing straight as a signal allowing them to proceed straight or turn left or right. If the arrow points straight you may only proceed straight, if it points left or right then only proceed left or right.
Steady red arrow. Consider it the opposite of the steady green arrow. Whichever direction this arrow is facing you may not proceed. If it’s facing to the right, you may not proceed after a complete stop to make a right on red like you may in other situations. The red arrow means no go.
One final note on right turns on a typical red circular disc light. Outside NYC, these turns are generally permitted unless there are signs indicating otherwise. Inside NYC, these turns are not permitted unless there are signs indicating otherwise.
If you are issued a summons for running a red light or violating another traffic signal, reach out to our office for assistance. We can help you fight your ticket in traffic court.
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Red Light and Other Traffic Signals FAQs
Should I fight the traffic ticket I received for running a red light?
A red light summons in NY is a three-point ticket and definitely can affect insurance rates. We’d like to see everyone fight every ticket–it’s very rare we’d ever recommend that someone just pay a ticket because even with a clean license you never know what is going to happen next week, next month, next year, etc. Of course a person’s existing driving history, job, license class, etc. can also play a role in the decision.
Will I need to go to court to fight my red light ticket?
If you plan on representing yourself, you’ll need to be in court in almost every traffic violation case. If you are represented by an attorney you’ll never need to attend your court hearing outside of the rarest and unusual circumstances.
What happens if I don’t pay my traffic ticket for running a red light?
Failing to properly handle and stay timely with a red light ticket will eventually result in a suspension of driving privileges. This is true for failing to respond to the ticket, failing to show for a hearing date and for failing to pay any fines due on time.
How long will a red light traffic violation stay on my driving record?
A red light violation conviction will be visible on your record from the time you are found guilty for at least three years going forward. This is the time where insurers and employers have a chance to see it. Point calculation by the DMV is always based on the date the ticket was issued and points are calculated by adding up the total number of points from tickets issued in any 18 month period.
Why do I need a lawyer to help me fight my red light traffic violation?
No one will ever be forced to get an attorney or “need” one. You can always represent yourself on a red light violation. However, with an attorney who knows what they are doing, you won’t need to attend court and you will give yourself the absolute best chance at a successful outcome. With a firm like ours, this is the only type of work we handle so we are quite experienced with red light tickets and other moving violations.
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I received notice that my case was heard in Queens County and that both summonses were dismissed. To say the least, I was extremely happy. Speed and failure to signal dismissed.
Thank you so much Scott. I have been very impressed with your service and common sense. Criminal misdemeanor reduced to a violation.
Please thank everyone for their excellent representation in this case. 4 point speeding ticket reduced to a parking violation.
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Feifer & Greenberg attorneys have been representing clients with traffic tickets and driving-related misdemeanors in New York for over 20 years. Our firm has successfully settled or dismissed hundreds of thousands of traffic matters. Each year we help a multitude of drivers avoid license points, costly fines, surcharges and insurance increases.