Running Red Lights and Stop Signs in Missouri

Read about Missouri’s red light and stop sign laws and the consequences of a violation.

If you get caught running a stop sign or red light in Missouri, you’ll likely face fines and demerit points on your driving record. This article gives an overview of what the law prohibits and some specific consequences of a stop sign or red light violation.

(Also, read about the options for dealing with a traffic citation.)

Making the Stop

At a red light (solid or flashing) or stop sign, motorists must make a complete stop at a clearly marked stop line or before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection. And if there is no stop line or crosswalk, the driver needs to stop before entering the intersection.

Right-On-Red Rule

Missouri law allows motorists to make a right turn after stopping at a red light unless there’s a sign indicating the turn is prohibited. However, before turning, the driver must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and other traffic passing through the intersection as directed by the signal.

Left-on-Red Rule

Some states allow motorists to make a left on red under certain circumstances. However, in Missouri, it’s generally always illegal to turn left at a red light. A driver who wants to make a left needs to wait for the light to turn green.

Meaning of a Yellow Light

In Missouri, a steady yellow light is a warning that the light is about to turn red. In other words, you’re allowed to enter an intersection while the light is still yellow. But if you enter the intersection after the light has turned red, you can be cited for running the light.

Red Light Cameras

Red light cameras have been a controversial topic in Missouri—the subject of ongoing political and legal battles. Red light cameras are still legal in Missouri. But the Missouri Supreme Court has held that city ordinances that put the burden on vehicle owners to prove someone else was driving their car when the violation occurred are unconstitutional. The Supreme Court said it’s up to the state—not the vehicle owner—to prove the identity of the driver. In other words, a law or ordinance can’t presume the owner of the vehicle was the driver when the red light violation occurred.

(Tupper v. City of St. Louis, 468 S.W.3d 360 (2015).)

Special Rules for Bicycles and Motorcycles

Under certain circumstances, Missouri law allows bicyclists and motorcyclists to legally go through a red light. Individuals who are cited for a red light violation while using one of these modes of transportation can get off the hook by showing:

  • they came to a complete stop at the light
  • the light stayed red for an unreasonable amount of time
  • the light apparently malfunction or failed to detect the motorcycle or bicycle, and
  • no person or vehicle was approaching so as to create a hazard when the bicyclist or motorcyclist entered the intersection on red.

Fines and Points for Violations

Stop sign and red light violations are class C misdemeanors in Missouri. Generally, a motorist who’s convicted of a stop sign or red light offense is looking at fines and costs of about $97.

The conviction will also add at least one demerit point to the motorist’s driving record. Accumulating too many points can lead to license suspension. However, a driver might be able to avoid points by completing a “driver improvement program.”

Depending on the circumstances, a stop sign or red light violation could also lead to a “careless and imprudent driving” conviction. And if one of these violations result in the death of another person, vehicular manslaughter charges are possible.

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