In my practice, I run into a lot of tickets written for red light violation. When I speak with the operator, most are adamant that the light was not red when they passed through the intersection. I hear over and over again “The light was yellow!”
In driver’s ed, many are taught to “stop if it is safe to do so”. Most drivers interpret this to mean that it is not necessary to stop if the light is not a solid red.
The application of the law is very different from the public understanding. Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 89 Section 9 : “The driver of a motor vehicle shall not cross or enter an intersection, which it is unable to proceed through, without stopping and thereby blocking vehicles from travelling in a free direction. A green light is no defense to blocking the intersection. The driver must wait another cycle of the signal light, if necessary.”
The courts interpret this statute to mean that you cannot cross into an intersection unless you are fully able to clear the intersection without the light turning. According to the language in this statute, even if the light is green, you are not to pass into the intersection if there is traffic that would prevent you from clearing the entire intersection. If the light is turning yellow, the language encourages a driver to stop and wait another cycle of the light so that there is no danger of blocking the intersection or being caught in the path of other traffic who may be waiting for the green signal.
As the statute states, having a green light is not a defense if you have entered the intersection and are unable to clear through before the light changes to red.
This is a surchargeable event in Massachusetts that counts towards insurance increases and towards license suspensions. If you have received a citation for a red light violation, contact Broadbent & Taylor at (508) 438-1198 to discuss fighting the ticket.
THIS BLOG WAS WRITTEN BY ATTORNEY KELLY BROADBENT. IT IS NOT INTENDED AS LEGAL ADVICE. IT DOES NOT FORM AN ATTORNEY CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.