Obeying Red Traffic Lights - Vehicle Code § 21453

Obeying Red Traffic Lights

What counts as a violation of Vehicle Code § 21453?

  1. Running a Red Light; Failing to Stop at the Limit Line 

Vehicle Code § 21453 makes it a crime to run a red traffic light.

Under Vehicle Code § 21453(a), a driver must stop when a circular traffic light is red. Additionally, the driver must remain stopped until the light turns green.

This usually means stopping at the white limit line in front of the intersection. However, if there is no limit line, the driver must stop before entering the crosswalk, or, if none, then before entering the intersection.  

2. Turning Right on a Red Arrow if a Sign Prohibits a Right Turn at a Red Arrow; Unsafe Right Turns

Under Vehicle Code § 21453(b), a driver may turn right after stopping at a red light if there is no sign prohibiting a right-turn on a red traffic light. Additionally, a driver may turn left from a one-way-street when there is a solid red light onto a one-way street. However, under Vehicle Code § 21453(c), a driver must come to stop at a solid red light before making a right turn. 

However, a driver making that turn must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians who lawfully in a nearby  crosswalk and to any vehicle that has approached or is approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard to the driver. In such cases, the driver must continue to yield the right-of-way to that vehicle until the driver can proceed with reasonable safety.

3. Crossing a Crosswalk as a Pedestrian when the Traffic Light is Red

Under Vehicle Code § 21453, unless otherwise directed by a pedestrian control signal as provided in Vehicle Code § 21456, a pedestrian facing a steady circular red or red arrow signal must not enter the roadway.

What is the punishment for a violation of Vehicle Code § 21453?

A violation of Vehicle Code § 21453 is punishable by a mandatory base fine of $100, plus penalty assessments. Including penalty assessments, the fine may exceed $400. 

What defenses are available to Vehicle Code § 21453?

  1. You could not see the red traffic light because it was obstructed or hidden from view 
  2. The light was not red when you entered the intersection 
  3. Necessity