Red Light and Stop Sign Tickets in Washington

Learn about Washington’s red light and stop sign laws and the costs of a violation.

If you get a stop sign or red light ticket in Washington, you’ll likely be looking at having to pay a fine. This article gives an overview of what the law requires and some of the consequences of a stop sign or red light violation.

(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 light (solid or flashing) generally must come to a complete stop prior to the nearest of entering the crosswalk, reaching a limit line, or entering the intersection itself.

Right-On-Red Rule

As long as there’s no sign specifically restricting it, Washington 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, in Washington, drivers are permitted to turn left after stopping at a red light onto a one-way street.

Meaning of a Yellow Light

Some states require motorists to stop at a yellow light except when it’s unsafe to do so. However, in Washington, a yellow light is just a warning that the signal is about to turn to red. In other words, you can enter an intersection on yellow, just not after the light has already turned red.

Special Rules for Motorcycles, Mopeds, and Bikes

Some signals use sensors that detect when motorists are waiting at the light. These sensors trigger the signal to switch only if a vehicle is detected. However, because of their small size, motorbikes and bicycles often aren’t detected by the sensor. So, Washington law permits a driver using one of these modes of transportation to pass through a red light if:

  • the signal uses a vehicle detection device
  • the signal fails to switch after a complete cycle
  • the driver uses due caution.

Red Light Cameras

Washington law permits jurisdictions within the state to use automated cameras at intersections to catch red-light violators. Jurisdictions that use photo enforcement must post signs at intersections informing drivers cameras are in use.

The violation notice is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle, who is generally responsible for paying the ticket.

Red light camera violations will not affect a motorist’s driving record. The fine for a violation cannot exceed the lesser of $48 or the cost of a parking ticket in the jurisdiction that issued the red light camera ticket.

(Read about how red light cameras work and some possible defenses to a camera ticket.)

Penalties

Red light and stop sign violations are traffic infractions in Washington. Convicted motorists face a maximum fine of $48, plus various fees.

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 ends up killing another person could face vehicular homicide charges.

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