Red Light and Stop Sign Tickets in Tennessee

Learn about Tennessee’s red light and stop sign laws and the consequences of a violation.

Tennessee drivers who run stop signs or stop lights will likely have to pay a fine. A red light or stop sign violations will also add demerit points to a motorist’s driving record. This article gives an overview of what the law prohibits and some of the consequences of a getting stop sign or red light citation.

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

Making the Stop

Motorists approaching a stop sign or a signal exhibiting a red (solid or flashing) or “stop” light must come to a complete stop prior to the nearest of entering the crosswalk, reaching a clearly marked stop line, or entering the intersection itself.

Right-On-Red Rule

As long as there’s no sign specifically restricting it, Tennessee law permits drivers to make a right turn after stopping at a red light. However, drivers need to use caution and follow the normal right-of-way rules when making the turn.

Left-on-Red Rule

Some states don’t allow left turns on red, regardless of the circumstances. However, Tennessee drivers are permitted to turn left after stopping at a red light from a one-way street onto another one-way street.

Meaning of a Yellow Light

In some states, it’s illegal to enter an intersection if the light is yellow. In Tennessee, however, a solid yellow or “caution” light is just a warning that the light is about to turn red. In other words, you can enter an intersection while the light is still yellow, just not after it has turned red.

Red Light Cameras

Tennessee law permits jurisdictions within the state to use automated cameras at intersections to catch red light violators. However, signs that inform drivers red light cameras are in use must be posted at intersections equipped with the cameras.

Generally, the vehicle owner is responsible for paying a red light camera citation. Owners who were not operating the vehicle when the violation occurred can establish a defense by providing the name and address of the operator in an affidavit or a certified copy of a police report showing the car had been stolen.

(Also, learn about how red light cameras work and fighting a red light camera ticket.)

Penalties

Stop sign and red light violations are class C misdemeanors in Tennessee. A class C misdemeanor carries up to $50 in fines (plus fees and court costs) and/or a maximum 30 days in jail. However, most violators don’t do jail time.

Generally, a stop sign or light conviction will add demerit points to a motorist’s driving record. A driver who accumulates too many could face license suspension.

Depending on the circumstances, a red light or stop sign violation could lead to a reckless driving conviction. And a driver who runs a red signal or stop sign and causes a fatality may face vehicular homicide charges.

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