The two violations that I enforce the most are red light violations and speed violations. Since I work in the afternoons, I focus on these during the evening commute. I want to discuss red light violations because they are the most dangerous in my mind.

Section 21453(a) of the California Vehicle Code states "A driver facing a steady circular red signal alone shall stop at a marked limit line, but if none, before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then before entering the intersection, and shall remain stopped until an indication to proceed is shown." Section 21453(c) of the vehicle code is the same but refers to a red arrow. I am sure that everyone is good on this part. If the light is red, stop behind the line.

Section 21453(b) of the vehicle code allows for a right turn when facing a red light only "after stopping as required by subdivision (a)." This means after you make the stop at the marked limit line, before entering the crosswalk or intersection, you may make the right turn "except when a sign is in place prohibiting a turn." According to, stop is defined as "a cessation or arrest of movement." So as you are approaching the intersection to make a right turn, stop completely for the red light, make sure there is no sign prohibiting the turn, make sure the intersection and crosswalk are clear of all traffic, and then proceed if it is safe to do so. If you fail to stop prior to your turn, you are cited for


subsection (a) which has the big dollar fine. If you do stop but fail to yield to traffic or turn where there is a sign, you are cited for subsection (b), which still carries a hefty fine.

There is a section that I feel everyone should know about and is directly related to this topic. Section 21452(a) of the vehicle code states "A driver facing a steady circular yellow or yellow arrow signal is, by that signal, warned that the related green movement is ending or that a red indication will be shown immediately thereafter." It is important to remember this section because with most stops I make the driver assures me that he "thought he could make it" or that the yellow light "seems awfully fast." The section explains that the yellow light is a warning. When the light turns from green to yellow, it is not the time to squeeze through or speed up. Start to reduce your speed, apply your brakes, and prepare to stop for the impending red light.

The majority of cars that I stop for red light violations are at least 5 to 15 feet behind the limit line when the light turns red. This means they were facing a yellow light long before that. I understand that when the work day is over, we all want to get home. We want to get home as quickly as possible. If you think that beating the red light will save you the some precious minutes it would otherwise take for the light to cycle and you will get home quicker, consider that the average traffic stop will cost you about 9 minutes and $400-plus in fines. A traffic collision will cost you 30 minutes at the minimum and perhaps a trip to the emergency room. Numbers don't lie; stop for the light and get home safely. In the end, it's what we all want.

* * *

Milpitas Police Department Officer Chris Nicholas of the Traffic Safety Unit can be reached at 586-3200, extension 1166, or