Texas Law Regarding Stopping at a Red Light

As previously discussed in this post, the Austin, TX City Council voted late last year, to approve installing red light cameras at selected intersections throughout the city.

Texas Drivers HandbookAs of Memorial Day 2008, they’re live, recording violators and sending that information to the city of Austin, so they can mail those unfortunate drivers a little surprise in the mail.

Everyone knows that you shouldn’t “run a red light.” Doing so is VERY dangerous, and can cost you your life — Or, worse yet, the life of someone else. But, just what constitutes a violation, and potential ticket? A little over a week ago, someone poised just that question in a Letter to the Editor of the Austin American-Statesman. The editor chose to publish the question, but offered no comment or explanation! THAT’S helpful!

To answer this question, I refer to a publication that most, if not all, drivers in Texas have studied at one point or another. It’s the standard for driving schools and driver’s education classes all across Texas – the Texas Drivers Handbook. I also will refer to the Texas Transportation Code, Section 544.007 to see what the state of Texas has to say about the subject.

Here’s what the Texas Drivers Handbook has to say about red lights:

Steady red Light

Stop before entering the crosswalk or intersection. You may turn right unless prohibited by law. You may also turn left if both streets are one way unless prohibited by law. You must yield to all pedestrians and other traffic lawfully using the intersection.

Stop LineCrosswalk

Just what exactly does “before entering the … intersection” mean? Well, for clarification, we can refer to Section 544.007 of the Transportation Code. It states:

§ 544.007. TRAFFIC-CONTROL SIGNALS IN GENERAL

(a) A traffic-control signal displaying different colored lights or colored lighted arrows successively or in combination may display only green, yellow, or red and applies to operators of vehicles as provided by this section.
(b) An operator of a vehicle facing a circular green signal[...]
(c) An operator of a vehicle facing a green arrow signal [...]
(d) An operator of a vehicle facing only a steady red signal shall stop at a clearly marked stop line. In the absence of a stop line, the operator shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection. [...]

So, we can infer from (d) above, that if your bumper crosses either the stop line or the beginning of the crosswalk AFTER the signal has turned red, you have violated the law (unless you’re legally turning right on red). But, what if there is no line or crosswalk? Well, then, it’s just gonna be up to the judgement of the driver and/or the law enforcement officer. I will tell you, though, that if there’s a red light camera installed, there WILL be either a stop line or a crosswalk, or both.

By the way, stop lines and crosswalk rules apply for stop signs as well.



If you found this website/post informative or interesting,
won't you consider making a small donation or other contribution?

21 Responses to “Texas Law Regarding Stopping at a Red Light”

You can subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Lucky225 says:

    But the law does not say you have to STAY stopped for any period of time, just that you must stop BEFORE entering the intersection. We’ve seen tons of articles about redlight cameras ticketing right-on-red. A red light is essentially the same thing as a Stop sign, so if you come to a redlight at 2 in the morning, stop, observe no cross-traffic, and then proceed and the red light camera takes a photo, are you actually in violation of 544.007?

  2. admin says:

    That’s an interesting point! I was coming home from work the other morning (at 6:00 am), and a guy just stopped, then continued driving through the red light, on his way. I thought, “He just ran that red light!”. But, no, he did exactly what was reasonable. He stopped, saw that no one was around, then went on about his way. Perfectly logical and safe.

    There’s nothing about that action that should be considered illegal — well, except for that part that says you must remain stopped…etc…

  3. Lucky225 says:

    Upon further review:

    (d) An operator of a vehicle facing only a steady red signal
    shall stop at a clearly marked stop line. In the absence of a stop
    line, the operator shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the
    near side of the intersection. *A vehicle that is not turning shall
    remain standing until an indication to proceed is shown.*

  4. Scott in Dallas Texas says:

    All of the above refernces to Texas Code and Drivers Handbook are true, however, there is more.
    If a right-on-red is prohibited, law requires that the posted “no-right-on-red sign” be posted “NEAR” the “APPROPRIATE” Signal Head.
    If the no-right-on-red sign is not located NEAR the APPROPRIATE Signal Head, such as on a self standing sign in the median of the crossing street, I’d say you have an argument to have the case dropped. That will be my argument when i go to court this Thursday. I’ll post the results after court to advise you of my success.

  5. admin says:

    I am wondering where you are getting the idea that a prohibitory sign must be posted near the appropriate signal? There is nothing in Trans. Code 544.007 that indicates that. It says that to prohibit a turn on red, a jurisdiction can do so “by posting notice at the intersection”. It makes no mention of exact location.

    Can you indicate where you are getting your information?

    Good luck with your traffic case!

  6. francis sintobin says:

    Last week I got a speeding violation going South on Hwy 67 in
    Keene, TX. A friend of mine told me I may have grounds to
    fight this violation for the following reason. According to
    my friend, Texas law mandates that there by warning posted
    such as “Reduced Speed Ahead” before the actual posted speed
    zone. While the other side (North Bound) does indeed have
    these warning signs, the South Bound does NOT. Do I have a
    case? Thanks for your help.

  7. Judy says:

    So what is the answer to turning right on a red light? I ended up getting a ticket. I was even in a special lane designated for right turns…

  8. admin says:

    Hi Judy,

    Here’s what the law (as referenced in the original post) says about turning right on red:

    Sec.544.007.TRAFFIC-CONTROL SIGNALS IN GENERAL.

    (d) An operator of a vehicle facing only a steady red signal shall stop at a clearly marked stop line. In the absence of a stop line, the operator shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection. A vehicle that is not turning shall remain standing until an indication to proceed is shown. After stopping, standing until the intersection may be entered safely, and yielding right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully in an adjacent crosswalk and other traffic lawfully using the intersection, the operator may:
    (1) turn right; or
    (2) turn left, if the intersecting streets are both one-way streets and a left turn is permissible.

    (f) The Texas Transportation Commission, a municipal authority, or the commissioners court of a county may prohibit within the entity’s jurisdiction a turn by an operator of a vehicle facing a steady red signal by posting notice at the intersection that the turn is prohibited.

    So, it’s perfectly alright to turn right on red if you’ve first come to a complete stop, there is no traffic/pedestrians, and there is no prohibitory signage or markings.

    What exactly is your ticket for? Disregard red light? Disregard traffic control device (TCD)? Illegal right turn? Did the officer reference a Texas Transportation Code number (i.e. 544.007) on your ticket? Why do YOU think you received this ticket?

  9. Lucky225 says:

    Regarding the posting of signs, all of that is covered by the Texas MUTCD, not the Transportation Code

    As for the speeding ticket, depends on what the MUTCD says and the type of street it is probably, but there are OTHER ways out of speeding tickets that are probably far easier defenses to present

  10. Steve says:

    Cities may pursue the installation of red light cameras on TXDOT right of way through an amendment to the municipal maintenance agreement. Cities without an executed MMA and counties, however, are not allowed to place the equipment on state right of ways.

  11. Meg Gould says:

    Right turn on red ticket. I stopped and the video technician
    reviewing said “No stop” The truck is manual transmission.
    I must stop to change gears and go. The pavement markings
    are old and worn down. Do I have a chance?

  12. admin says:

    Well, first, I would first get a copy of the video that is being ‘reviewed’. All you have to do is make an ‘Open Records’ request, in writing, to the appropriate authority – police department, transportation department, etc.

    Reviewing exactly what’s on the video would be the first step. I know I am not able to remember every detail and every movement I make at every intersection. Perhaps viewing the video will refresh your memory of what actually took place.

    And, I wouldn’t use the ‘I must stop to change gears’ defense. I may be wrong, but I don’t know of any vehicle that requires a ‘full stop’ to change gears. That would be rather cumbersome and inefficient.

    In summary, gather all your evidence, review the applicable laws regarding your community/city/state, and weigh the merits of challenging vs. just paying the ticket. Me, personally, I challenge just about everything. It puts them on the defensive and makes them prove their point, rather than just expecting you to pay your fine and move on.

    Keeps us updated on what goes on! Good luck!

  13. mari says:

    I recieved a ticket from a video camera at a four way intersection. The light turn red and I was in the right turn lane only. I did not come to a complete stop and I yeilded and saw that I could make the turn without putting anyone in danger of an accident. There is only two traffic lights for the direction I was traveling towards. The traffic lights are for the left and center lanes that continue straight forward through the intersection. The right turn only lane does not have a traffic light or yeild sign, so I thought I could make a right turn without coming to a complete stop. Am I right? I live in Texas and do not know where to find this info. Can you please tell me.

  14. admin says:

    If there is no traffic light specifically for the lane you are in, you must obey the ‘main’ traffic light for that intersection.

    Sorry, but your not “coming to a complete stop” was in error, as the main light for the intersection was red. You must ALWAYS come to a complete stop at any intersection that is displaying a red light, unless there is a specific signal for your lane that is displaying solid green or a green arrow.

  15. Latasha Harris says:

    I was in my right hand lane coming toward Dallas North Tollway and made a complete stop at the light right when the light was turning red, however, I received a red light ticket in the mail. Is there any way that the ticket could be dismissed even if I did not run the red light? If so, what are the proper steps that I would need to take?

  16. jayjay73 says:

    Everyone knows that you shouldn

  17. Rob says:

    So, I received a red light camera ticket for turning right at an intersection that has a green arrow signal for right hand turns. This particular intersection has a right turn only lane, and the lane next to it is a right turn OR straight lane. I was in the Right turn or straight lane and didn’t stop. Am I wrong for not stopping? Here’s the only statute I can find for it:

    Sec. 544.007. TRAFFIC-CONTROL SIGNALS IN GENERAL.

    (c) An operator of a vehicle facing a green arrow signal, displayed alone or with another signal, may cautiously enter the intersection to move in the direction permitted by the arrow or other indication shown simultaneously. The operator shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian lawfully in an adjacent crosswalk and other traffic lawfully using the intersection.

    Friends say that cause its a straight OR turn lane that I am required to stop first and then turn, but this statute doesn’t say anything about that.

  18. admin says:

    Well, I tend to agree with you. But the camera system is designed to catch motorists who may illegally go straight through that lane when only the green arrow is showing.

    I would request a jury trial, and make the state prove that there is some law to prove their point. You don’t have to get a lawyer if you know (or can learn) just a little about how the court works. Heck, just explaining what happened to the prosecutor may get your ticket dismissed. You were in a lane that allows right turns, and you had a green arrow allowing the right turn.

    BTW, where was the intersection? Good luck!

  19. richard says:

    I recently recieved a notice of running a red-light. I could not have run the red light because i was at work in posession of a different vehicle. I agree that it was my vehicle but i disagree that they have the right to punish me for a violation I did not commit. I am not a mind reader and cannot control what happens when I am not there. Isn’t this a violation of my rights? The car was not stolen but I was not the one driving. Let me borrow a gun from a police freind of mine and kill someone(hypothetical). Would he be charged with murder? That would make as much sense.

  20. Evelyn De Jesus says:

    I was stopped and ticketed for running a red light and a last minute violation addition was failed to signal turn. The light has a total 6 second timing from green to yellow to red. I am at a side street on a left turn only lane entering a main highway of five lanes; it has been a year that the early morning traffic light timer was changed. I initiate my movement when the light turns green, by time I am midpoint (two lanes in) the light turns yellow and red when I am not yet at the nearest left lane on the opposite side of the highway. The officer said he had stopped me for running the red light; I tried to explain that I started my approach when the light was green, but it has less than 6 seconds from green to red. Not allowing me a safe permissible transition. He said he was not going to argue with me save it for the court, when he returned and requested my signature he told me he added another violation of failing to signal turn (this was also untrue) not only did I have my signal on I was in the far left lane of the two left turn only lanes. I am an extremity cautious driver especially at 3 am when I go to work. Since the light timer changed there have been several accidents to include a fatal one that I witnessed. How do I defend myself and more important how I get someone to listen that this light cannot be within the law required code.

  21. Abby G says:

    Well my little run in was in the fine City of Hutto. Caught by the automated money machine red light trap. Not really running the red light though.

    In fact I was turning right. In decades of driving I have never been cited for such a thing; after all turning right on red is legal unless otherwise posted. Know this though, [b]Law says you must come to full stop![/b] With this money machine they collect enough evidence to show that you did or did not stop.

    This red light trap is set up to generate revenue where no live peace officer would waste time, except of course an E-3 MP at Ft. Hood.

Leave a comment

Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, some HTML code allowed: