Did I Run A Red Light (N.J.S.A. 39:4-105) or Fail to Observe a Traffic Signal (N.J.S.A. 39:4-81) in New Jersey?

October 1, 2015

The Traffic Signal Was Yellow When I Entered the Intersection.

It has happened to all of us. You’re in a hurry, the traffic signal is yellow, and you think you can make it. Suddenly, just as you are either approaching the intersection, or passing through the intersection, the light turns red.

Did you technically run a red light?

A ticket in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-81 (failure to observe traffic signal) is very similar to one for N.J.S.A. 39:4-105 (failure to stop for traffic light) and police officers typically write for either one of these violations when a driver runs a red light in New Jersey.

The penalties for running a red light in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-105 or for failing to observe a traffic signal in violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-81 are actually quite serious and could end up costing you a great deal. Thus, it is important to be aware of these consequences and to hire an experienced traffic attorney to fight the ticket.
As children, we are taught that green means go, yellow means slow down, and red means stop. N.J.S.A. 39:4-105 sets forth the basic principles regarding this three-color system.

Under New Jersey law, a green light means that traffic has the permission to go, subject to the “safety of others.” Thus, a green light does not technically confer on a driver an unqualified right to proceed. According to New Jersey case law, this means that the driver may not disregard the ordinary precautions of maintaining a lookout and observing conditions on the street he is crossing simply because he is proceeding with a green light. Rekiec v. Zuzio, 132 N.J. Super. 71, 79 (1975).

A red traffic signal pursuant to N.J.S.A. 39:4-105 means that traffic must stop before entering an intersection and must remain stopped until the signal turns green again. Thus, under New Jersey law, traffic must stop at a red light. Failing to do so – even if the signal had just turned red immediately before you entered the intersection – is grounds for a violation.

Finally, N.J.S.A. 39:4-105 instructs that, if the signal is amber or yellow, traffic is required to stop before entering the intersection, unless when the yellow signal appears, the motor vehicle is so close to the intersection that it cannot be stopped safely. The statute specifically proscribes that a distance of 50 feet from the intersection is considered a “safe stopping distance” for a motor vehicle traveling at a speed of 20 miles per hour.

Thus, if your motor vehicle is traveling at 20 miles per hour and is located less than 50 feet from the intersection at the time the light changes to yellow, you may proceed across the intersection and/or make a right or left hand turn if permitted. According to the statute, however, if your vehicle is 50 feet or more from the intersection at the time the light turns yellow, you are not only required to slow down and to stop, but you are also not technically allowed to speed up and go through the light.

The penalties for failing to stop at a traffic light or failing to observe a traffic signal are the same and include a fine of between $50.00 and $200.00, 2 motor vehicle points, up to 15 days of jail time, and the possibility of an increase in your insurance premiums in addition to just having a violation on your driving record. Moreover, these fines will be doubled if the offense takes place in an area designated with a speed limit of 65 miles per hour (N.J.S.A. 39:4-98.6) or if it takes place in an area of the highway undergoing construction or if it is committed in a designated safe corridor (N.J.S.A. 39:4-203.5).

If you received a ticket for running a red light (N.J.S.A. 39:4-105) or for failing to observe a traffic signal (N.J.S.A. 39:4-81) in New Jersey contact the Law Office of Randolph H. Wolf today for a free consultation at (732) 741-4448. Our attorneys have years of experience fighting traffic tickets, negotiating with prosecutors, and reducing and/or dismissing traffic violations.

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