Disobeying A Traffic Signal

A “traffic control signal” is commonly known as a traffic light. The technical definition for “traffic control signal,” as set forth in Section 4511.01(R)(R), is any highway traffic signal by which traffic is alternately directed to stop and permitted to proceed.

A “traffic control signal” is different than a “traffic control device.” A “traffic control device” is defined under Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.01(Q)(Q) as a flagger, sign, signal, marking or other device used to regulate, warn or guide traffic, placed on, over or adjacent to a street, highway, private road open to public travel, pedestrian facility, or shared-use path by authority of a public agency or official having jurisdiction, or, in the case of a private road open to public travel, by authority of the private owner or private official having jurisdiction. For the page addressing the offense of disobeying a traffic control device, click here.

Rules Governing Highway Traffic Signals

Drivers must obey the rules governing traffic control signals as set forth in Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.13. The provisions that apply to drivers of vehicles are summarized as follows:

  • Steady circular green signal:

Under Section 4511.13(A)(1), a driver facing a circular green signal is permitted to proceed straight through or turn right or left or make a U-turn movement, except as such movement is modified by a lane-use sign, turn prohibition sign, lane marking, roadway design, separate turn signal indication or other traffic control device.

In proceeding into the intersection, including turning right or left or making a U-turn, the driver must yield the right of way to: (i) pedestrians lawfully within an associated crosswalk; and (ii) other vehicles within the intersection.

In turning left or making the U-turn, the driver must yield the right of way to other vehicles approaching from the opposite direction so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when such turning vehicle is moving across or within the intersection.

  • Steady green arrow signal:

Under Section 4511.13(A)(2), a driver facing a green arrow signal, displayed alone or in combination with another signal indication, is permitted to cautiously enter the intersection only to make the movement indicated by such arrow, or such other movement as is permitted by other indications displayed at the same time.

In proceeding into the intersection, including turning right or left or making a U-turn, the driver must yield the right of way to: (i) pedestrians lawfully within an associated crosswalk; and (ii) other vehicles within the intersection.

  • Steady circular yellow signal:

Under Section 4511.13(B)(1), a driver facing a steady circular yellow signal is thereby warned that the related green movement or the related flashing arrow movement is being terminated or that a steady red signal indication will be exhibited immediately thereafter when vehicular traffic shall not enter the intersection. The provisions governing vehicular operation under the movement being terminated continue to apply while the steady circular yellow signal indication is displayed.

  • Steady yellow arrow signal:

Under Section 4511.13(B)(2), a driver facing a steady yellow arrow signal is thereby warned that the related green arrow movement or the related flashing arrow movement is being terminated. The provisions governing vehicular operation under the movement being terminated continue to apply while the steady yellow arrow signal indication is displayed.

  • Steady red signal.

Under Section 4511.13(C)(1), a driver facing a steady circular red signal indication, unless entering the intersection to make another movement permitted by another signal indication, must stop at a clearly marked stop line; but if there is no stop line, the driver must stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection; or if there is no crosswalk, then before entering the intersection; and must remain stopped until a signal indication to proceed is displayed, except as provided below.

Except when a traffic control device is in place prohibiting a turn on red or a steady red arrow signal is displayed, a driver facing a steady circular red signal is permitted, after stopping, to enter the intersection to turn right or to turn left from a one-way street into another one-way street. The right to proceed with the turn is subject to the provisions that are applicable after making a stop at a stop sign.

A driver facing a steady red arrow signal may not enter the intersection to make the movement indicated by the arrow and, unless entering the intersection to make another movement permitted by another signal, must stop at a clearly marked stop line; but if there is no stop line, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection; or if there is no crosswalk, then before entering the intersection; and must remain stopped until a signal indication or other traffic control device permitting the movement indicated by such red arrow is displayed.

When a traffic control device is in place permitting a turn on a steady red arrow signal, a driver facing a steady red arrow is permitted, after stopping, to enter the intersection to turn right or to turn left from a one-way street into another one-way street. The right to proceed with the turn shall be limited to the direction indicated by the arrow and shall be subject to the provisions that are applicable after making a stop at a stop sign.

Local authorities by ordinance, or the director of transportation on state highways, may prohibit a right or a left turn against a steady red signal at an intersection, which is effective when signs giving notice thereof are posted at the intersection.

  • Flashing circular yellow signal.

Under Section 4511.13(E)(1), a driver facing a flashing circular yellow signal may cautiously enter the intersection to proceed straight through or turn right or left or make a U-turn movement, except as such movement is modified by lane-use signs, turn prohibition signs, lane markings, roadway design, separate turn signal indications or other traffic control devices.

In proceeding into the intersection, including turning right or left or making a U-turn, the driver must yield the right of way to: (i) pedestrians lawfully within an associated crosswalk; and (ii) other vehicles within the intersection.

In turning left or making the U-turn, the driver must yield the right of way to other vehicles approaching from the opposite direction so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when such turning vehicle is moving across or within the intersection.

  • Flashing yellow arrow signal.

Under Section 4511.13(E)(2), a driver facing a flashing yellow arrow signal, displayed alone or in combination with another signal indication, may cautiously enter the intersection only to make the movement indicated by such arrow, or other such movement as is permitted by other signal indications displayed at the same time.

In proceeding into the intersection, including turning right or left or making a U-turn, the driver must yield the right of way to: (i) pedestrians lawfully within an associated crosswalk; and (ii) other vehicles within the intersection.

In turning left or making the U-turn, the driver must yield the right of way to other vehicles approaching from the opposite direction so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when such turning vehicle is moving across or within the intersection.

When a flashing circular yellow signal is displayed as a beacon to supplement another traffic control device, road users are notified that there is a need to pay additional attention to the message contained thereon or that the regulatory or warning requirements of the other traffic control device, which might not be applicable at all times, are currently applicable.

  • Flashing circular red signal.

Under Section 4511.13(E)(2), a driver facing a flashing circular red signal indication must stop at a clearly marked stop line; but if there is no stop line, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection; or if there is no crosswalk, at the point nearest to the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering the intersection. The right to proceed is subject to the provisions that are applicable after making a stop at a stop sign.

When a flashing circular red signal is displayed as a beacon to supplement another traffic control device, road users are notified that there is a need to pay additional attention to the message contained thereon or that the regulatory requirements of the other traffic control device, which might not be applicable at all times, are currently applicable. Use of this signal indication shall be limited to supplementing stop, do not enter, or wrong way signs, and to applications where compliance with the supplemented traffic control device requires a stop at a designated point.

  • Traffic signal erected at a place other than an intersection.

If a traffic signal is erected and maintained at a place other than an intersection, the above rules in Section 4511.13 apply, except as to those provisions which by their nature can have no application. Any stop required must be made at a sign or marking on the pavement indicating where the stop shall be made, but in the absence of any such sign or marking the stop must be made at the signal.

  • Railroad grade crossings.

The above provisions do not apply at railroad grade crossings, which are governed by Ohio Revised Code Sections 4511.61 and 4511.62 and not discussed here.

Penalty For Disobeying A Traffic Signal

Disobeying a traffic signal ordinarily is a minor misdemeanor. The potential penalty for a minor misdemeanor traffic offense includes the imposition of a fine of up to $150, up to 30 hours of community service and court costs.

But if, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, then disobeying a traffic signal is elevated to a fourth-degree misdemeanor. The potential penalty for a fourth-degree misdemeanor traffic infraction includes the imposition of a jail term of not more than 30 days, an additional or alternative community control sanction plus reimbursement for the cost of this sanction, a fine of up to $250 and court costs.

And if, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, then disobeying a traffic signal is elevated to a third-degree misdemeanor.

Community control sanctions generally can include residential placement, house arrest, drug/alcohol testing and treatment, specified education and training, community service, curfew, probation, etc. Under certain circumstances, the court also may order an offender to pay restitution to any identifiable victim who incurred an economic loss as a result of the violation.

Points Assessed For Disobeying A Traffic Signal

A conviction on a traffic ticket for disobeying a traffic control signal carries two points in Ohio on an offender’s driving record. For more information on how the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) processes points for moving violations and the substantial penalty for excessive points accumulation, press the Ohio BMV Points System.

Speak With A Traffic Attorney

Frequently a lawyer can appear in court and resolve a traffic case in the client’s absence, provided both the court and the prosecutor agree. This saves the client the aggravation of taking time off from work, fighting traffic to get to court on time, waiting for potentially hours for the case to be called, standing in long lines and potentially having to do it all over again if the case is continued.

If you are seeking a traffic lawyer, contact us at 614.695.5000 or online. We offer legal representation to drivers charged with traffic tickets in the Columbus metropolitan area.

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