Failure to observe road signals (N.J.S.A. 39:4-81)

If you get caught running a red light or a stop sign, you are considered to have violated New Jersey traffic law, and you will receive a traffic ticket. In this article, experienced traffic attorney Dan T. Matrafajlo will explain to you the legal consequences of getting a ticket for failure to observe traffic signals.

The law: N.J.S.A. 39:4-81

The pertinent New Jersey traffic law is N.J.S.A. 39:4-81, which says:

“a. The driver of every vehicle, the motorman of every street car and every pedestrian shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device applicable thereto, placed in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, unless otherwise directed by a traffic or police officer.

“b. When, by reason of a power failure or other malfunction, a traffic control signal at an intersection is not illuminated, the driver of a vehicle or street car shall, with respect to that intersection, observe the requirement for a stop intersection, as provided in R.S.39:4-144.”

This means that you must obey the traffic signals, whether you are a motorist or a pedestrian, unless a traffic officer or police directs you to do otherwise. If the traffic control signal isn’t working, you must still stop at the intersection and yield the right of way in accordance with the traffic laws.

MVC points and penalties

Failure to observe traffic signals results in the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) adding two points to your driving record. Keep in mind that if you accumulate six or more points on your New Jersey driving record within three years, you’ll be subject to a surcharge; if you get 12 or more points at any time, your license will be suspended.


The traffic fine for failing to observe a traffic signal is $85. However, if you commit this motor vehicle violation in a designated safe corridor, construction zone, or 65-mile-per-hour area, the ticket is $140.

The municipal court can also fine you from $50 to $200 and/or imprison you in state prison for up to 15 days.

Insurance rates

Additionally, New Jersey-licensed automobile insurance providers will add two “insurance eligibility points,” which means higher insurance rates. If you accumulate too many points, you won’t be able to get insurance coverage through the voluntary market at all, and you’ll have to purchase coverage through the more expensive New Jersey Personal Automobile Insurance Plan (NJPAIP).




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