Traffic Tickets for Cutting Through a Parking Lot to Get Around a Red Light

The penalties for avoiding a traffic signal by driving around it.

Traffic lights can be slow, especially during rush-hour, and cutting through that gas station to avoid the light seems so easy and tempting. But check your local rules before you do. A violation for avoiding a traffic signal—sometimes called "rat-running"—can result in fines, license points, and even possible jail time. This article covers laws that prohibit rat running and possible penalties for a violation.

Avoiding a Traffic Control Device

A violation for avoiding a traffic control device generally entails crossing public or private property in an effort to avoid a traffic signal. The laws of each state are a little different though. For example, Texas prohibits driving through a parking lot (public or private) without stopping, whereas Illinois's law applies only to crossing private property. Despite the differences, rat-running laws are very common in many states and cities.

Penalties for Avoiding a Traffic Signal

Each state defines and penalizes rat-running differently. Here are some, but not all, of the states that criminalize traffic signal avoidance.

  • In Florida, anyone who drives a vehicle from a roadway to another roadway to avoid obeying a traffic control device faces a $60 fine.
  • In Texas, motorists who cross a sidewalk or drive through a driveway, parking lot, or business or residential entrance without stopping the vehicle can be convicted of a misdemeanor and face a $1 to $200 fine.
  • Illinois motorists who leave the roadway and travel across private property to avoid an official traffic control device face a fine of $75 to $1,000.
  • New Jersey. Drivers in New Jersey (except for emergency vehicles and motor vehicles being operated at the direction of a law enforcement officer) who drive on public property for the purpose of avoiding a traffic control signal or sign face a $50 to $200 fine and up to 15 days in jail.
  • New York. In New York, motorists who drive across or on a sidewalk, driveway, parking lot, private property, or otherwise drive off a roadway in order to avoid an intersection or traffic-control device face a maximum $138 fine.
  • In Virginia, motorists who drive off the roadway in order to evade any stop sign, yield sign, or traffic light are looking at a fine of $101.

Additionally, many cities have municipal ordinances prohibiting traffic signal avoidance. For example, Stillwater, Oklahoma has a law that makes it illegal to rat-run through driveways, drive-in restaurants, motels, gasoline-filling stations, or commercial establishments for the purposes of avoiding any traffic control device or signal.

Talk to a Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
Get Professional Help

Talk to a Traffic Ticket attorney.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you