California Vehicle Code § 21453
Section § 21453 of the California Vehicle Code creates three rules for drivers. All of those rules govern a driver’s response to red traffic signals.
Circular red light
A “steady circular red light” means a red light that is round (as opposed to, for instance, a red light in the shape of an arrow) and not blinking. A driver who encounters a “steady circular red light” must stop:
- at or before the line marked on the road, if there is one, or
- before entering a marked crosswalk, if there is no designated line, or
- before entering the intersection, if there is no designated line or marked crosswalk.
The driver must remain stopped until the light changes to green or amber. Driving through an intersection against a red light is a common violation, but sometimes the police write tickets because they believe the driver did not stop in the place that the law requires. Since those tickets come down to the accuracy of the officer’s observation, a traffic ticket expert can often contest those charges successfully. Winning defenses can even be raised to charges of running a red light.
Right turn on red
After stopping at a “steady circular red light,” a driver in California can make a right turn unless a posted sign prohibits right turns on red. The turning driver must yield to pedestrians in both the crosswalk on the street from which the turn is made and the crosswalk on the street the driver is entering. The driver must also yield to oncoming traffic if it would be unsafe to turn in front of an oncoming vehicle.
Subject to the same requirement of yielding to pedestrians and traffic, a driver can make a left turn after stopping at a “steady circular red light,” but only if the driver is turning from a one-way street onto a one-way street. Most “right turn on red” tickets are based on a police officer’s claim that the driver did not come to a complete stop before making the turn.
Since the officer is often relying on his or her own perception, traffic ticket expert contest those tickets with a high rate of success. When a “right turn on red” ticket is based on the officer’s claim that it was “unsafe” to turn because of pedestrians or traffic, the officer’s subjective opinion about whether the turn was safe usually provides a defense to the charge. Unless the turn resulted in a collision, whether the turn was safe is usually a matter of opinion. Our traffic ticket experts have over 50 years combined experience and are able to exploit ambiguous facts when the fight for dismissal of the ticket.
A driver who encounters a “steady red arrow” (meaning a red arrow that is not blinking) cannot legally turn in the direction that the arrow is pointing while the steady red arrow continues to be illuminated. For example, if you are in a left turn lane, you cannot turn left even if there is no oncoming traffic as long as a steady red arrow controlling the turn lane is pointing to the left.
A driver facing a steady red arrow cannot enter the intersection to wait for the arrow to change but must stop as if stopping for a red light.
That means the driver must stop behind a stop line painted on the road, before entering a crosswalk, or before entering an intersection. The defenses noted above that apply to “steady circular red light” violations also apply equally when the driver contests a red arrow violation. A traffic ticket expert can raise those defenses on your behalf to seek dismissal of the ticket.