A New York driver who runs a stop sign or red light will likely have to pay a fine. A red light or stop sign violation will also add demerit points to a motorist's driving record. (A driver might have other options for dealing with a ticket, including fighting the charge in traffic court.) This article gives an overview of what the law requires and prohibits and some of the consequences of being convicted of a stop sign or red light violation.
When approaching a stop sign or red light (solid or flashing), a motorist must come to a complete stop before the nearest of entering the crosswalk at the closest side of the intersection, reaching a marked stop line, or entering the intersection itself.
In New York City—and, generally, in other cities with a population of at least one million—motorists aren't allowed to make a right turn at a red light unless a sign specifically says it's okay.
However, in cities of less than a million within the state, motorists can make a right turn at a red signal after coming to a complete stop and yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians and other vehicles lawfully using the intersection.
In cities, including New York City, with populations of a million or more, a left on red is prohibited unless a sign is posted indicating the turn is allowed. In other cities, motorists can make a left turn after stopping at a red light only from a one-way street onto another one-way street, provided there's no sign prohibiting such a turn. Of course, motorists have to follow right-of-way rules and proceed with caution when making the turn.
Some states require drivers to stop at yellow lights unless it's unsafe to do so. In New York, however, a steady yellow light is just a warning that the light is about to turn red. In other words, so long as you enter the intersection before the signal turns red, you haven't violated the law.
A number of jurisdictions within New York State use automated cameras at intersections to catch red-light violators. Generally, the owner of the vehicle is responsible for paying a red light camera ticket unless the operator did not have the owner's permission to use the vehicle.
The maximum fine for a red light camera ticket is $50, and the conviction won't go on the driver's record or affect insurance premiums.
The fines for red light and stop sign violations depend on a number of factors, including where the violation occurred. But, generally, a convicted motorist is looking at $50 to $300 in fines.
A stop sign or red light conviction will put three demerit points on a motorist's driving record. Drivers who accumulate 11 or more points within an 18-month period face license suspension. However, motorists can get a four-point reduction by completing a "point and insurance reduction program" (PIRP) course.
And depending on the circumstances, a red light or stop sign violation could lead to a reckless driving conviction.
Depending on your situation, it might make sense to fight a stop sign or red light ticket. But fighting a ticket in traffic court is sometimes easier said than done. So it's a good idea to at least talk to an attorney before deciding to represent yourself in court.