Running Red Lights and Stop Signs in Oregon

Penalties and enforcement for running red lights and stop signs in Oregon.

Running a stop sign or red light is one of the most common moving violations (especially popular when police officers must meet their ticket quotas for the month). Here are the basics on the enforcement, defenses, and penalties for this offense in Oregon.

Where and How to Stop

Stop signs and traffic lights, sometimes referred to as traffic-control devices, are placed at intersections and crossings requiring the driver to come to a full stop at the “limit line” (a line painted on the street indicating where to stop), or if there is no limit line, at the entrance to the intersection or crossing.


The fine for running a stop sign or red light is a maximum of $300 in Oregon. These fines may change over time and differ by county. Check with the county clerk for the most current fines.

“The Right on Red” Rule

Like most states, Oregon allows drivers to make a turn on a red light in certain situations—typically if there is no sign prohibiting "right on red," and if it is safe to do so under the circumstances.

Left on Red Rule

Oregon permits left turns on red lights onto one-way streets.

The “Yellow-Light Rule” in Oregon

In Oregon, a yellow light means that traffic facing the light is “warned” that a red light will soon follow. Unlike some other states, Oregon law requires drivers to stop at a yellow light. A driver is permitted to drive through a yellow light only if the driver cannot safely come to a stop and proceeds cautiously. (Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 811.260 (2017).) 

Possible Defenses:

  • The officer could not see your full stop. Occasionally, an officer will park on a cross street so that all is visible is the stop sign and limit line, and maybe a few feet of road in front of the line or sign. A conscientious driver might well come to a complete stop a few feet behind the line where the officer can’t see; then, having already stopped as required, drive ahead into the intersection. If this happens to you, you should try to find out where the officer was parked. Later you can take pictures from that location to show just how limited the officer’s view was.
  • You could not see the stop sign or red light. It may happen that local conditions made the device unviewable to you—for example, leaves from adjacent trees covered or obscured your view of a stop sign until it was too late to stop. This too can be shown with photographic evidence, and establishes the defense that you were neither willful nor criminally negligent in driving through it.
  • The “recently installed” defense. One other possible (if rare) defense applies to newly installed devices. For example, it’s all too easy to miss seeing a recently installed stop sign on a familiar road. Willfulness or carelessness is an implied essential element of every violation and a judge may find you not guilty if the stop sign wasn’t visible until too late, or you didn’t realize it had just been installed.
  • “Didn’t stop at the line” defense. People sometimes get a ticket because they stopped in front of the limit line or crosswalk, rather than behind. If this happens to you, perhaps you can truthfully testify that it hasn’t been repainted for so long that it was unnoticeable. Here again, a picture is truly better than a thousand words.

Red Light Cameras

Oregon permits the use of red light cameras—devices that photograph drivers running red lights and automatically issue tickets. A few possible defenses to consider for a red light camera ticket:

  • You weren’t driving the car. If this is the case, the photograph should demonstrate that someone else was driving your vehicle;
  • Some states require that warning signs be posted to make you aware of photo enforcement at the upcoming red light. Some states require warning signs for red light cameras. If you can prove that the municipality did not provide warning signage, you may be able to succeed in your red light camera defense. (Photos are essential to this defense.)

Special Rules for Motorcycles and Bikes

In some circumstances, motorcyclists and bicyclists in Oregon may run red lights legally. If a traffic light fails to turn green after going through a full cycle, motorcyclist or and bicyclist can proceed through the intersection with caution. The reason for the special rule is that devices that trigger red lights have difficulty "reading" the presence of motorcycles and bicycles. Cyclists are often left standing for long periods, or until a car approaches. (Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 811.360 (2017).)

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