Failure to Stop for a Traffic Control Device

Drivers Running Red Lights and Stop Signs

Failure to Stop For Traffic Control DeviceThere are two types of traffic control devices that require drivers to come to a complete stop before proceeding forward: red lights and stops signs. According to statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an average of 2 people die each day in the United States in automobile collisions caused by someone running a red light and over 120,000 are injured. 45% of all crashes occur at intersections where someone often has a stop sign or red light and fails to stop and/or yield right of way after stopping. When a driver fails to stop for a traffic control device, the results can be deadly, particularly if they are rushing to beat a yellow light.

Texas Laws Pertaining to Traffic Control Devices

The Texas Laws pertaining to failing to stop at traffic control devices are found in Chapter 544 of the Texas Transportation Code.

Running Red Lights

Section 544.004 covers traffic control devices. It reads as follows:

(a)The operator of a vehicle or streetcar shall comply with an applicable official traffic-control

device placed as provided by this subtitle unless the person is:

(1)  otherwise directed by a traffic or police officer;  or

(2)  operating an authorized emergency vehicle and is subject to

exceptions under this subtitle.

Thus, if the light is red, a driver has a legal duty to stop.

Running Stop Signs

Section 544.010 covers stop and yield signs as follows:

(a)  Unless directed to proceed by a police officer or traffic-control signal, the operator of a vehicle or streetcar approaching an intersection with a stop sign shall stop as provided by Subsection (c).

(b)  If safety requires, the operator of a vehicle approaching a yield sign shall stop as provided by Subsection (c).

(c)  An operator required to stop by this section shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection.  In the absence of a crosswalk, the operator shall stop at a clearly marked stop line.  In the absence of a stop line, the operator shall stop at the place nearest the intersecting roadway where the operator has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway.

Thus, drivers with a stop sign have a duty to stop.

Negligence Per Se for Running Stop

Negligence per se means: “negligence as a matter of law.” Under common law, it is negligence per se to violate a specific statute, code or ordinance that defines a standard of conduct as it applies to a particular class of people. In order for a statute to qualify, it must clearly define the conduct required and it must be designed to protect to the particular class of persons who are seeking to enforce it. In the case of red lights and stop signs, Texas Courts have recognized that the above statutes are intended to protect other drivers, pedestrians and/or cyclists that could be injured or killed from people running a red light. Thus it is negligence as a matter of law if you are found guilty of having run a red light.

Why People Run Red Lights and Stop Signs

There are many reasons why a driver may run a red light or ignore a stop sign. It may be done intentionally or inadvertently. Sometimes people get in a hurry and just simply do not want to wait. Other times they are distracted or otherwise not paying attention and do not notice the color of the light or that there is a stop sign. All vehicle operators have a duty to maintain a proper lookout and to follow any and all traffic control devices and signs. Thus, failing to stop for any of these reasons constitutes negligence per se on the part of the vehicle operator.

Stop Signs Removed or Traffic Lights Broken

If a stop sign has been removed or the traffic light is broken, a driver is not guilty of running a stop sign or signal. However, if there is a broken signal light, all drivers should come to a stop before proceeding into the intersection, and; then only do so if it can be done safely.

City, County or State Liability for Defective Lights or Signs

Intersections Not Controlled by Any Traffic Control Device

Under Texas Law, the government is immune from lawsuits unless they have granted permission to sue them under the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA).  Under the TTCA, a government agency has absolute discretion as to whether or not to put up a traffic control device (sign or signal) at any given place. If the government chooses not to put one up, individual citizens have no cause of action against the government agency for choosing not to do so. However, if the government agency determines a control device should be put up and actually puts one up; then the government agency has a duty to maintain the device.

Downed Signs or Defective Signals

Under the TTCA, a driver many sue a government responsible for maintaining a traffic control device. However, in order to recover, the driver must show that the responsible agency had actual notice of the defective light or missing sign and failed to act reasonably to remedy the condition or warn the public of the danger.  This is a very hard burden to overcome because you have to show that the sign was down or device was inoperable and that the responsible government agency was made aware of this fact and then failed to act as a reasonable person would have acted to take care of it.

Consult a Lawyer

If you have been injured in a car wreck due to someone’s failure to stop for a red light or stop sign, you may have legal recourse against that driver for his negligence.  Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. today to speak with a car wreck attorney regarding your case. (713) 932-0777. The call and consultation are free. If we take your case, we charge no fees unless we make a recovery for you.


Paul Cannon