Understanding Traffic Laws in Long Island

Ignorance is No Excuse

Photo of traffic
Photo: Free Images

A driver in Lynbrook was heading east on a residential street where he was preparing to make a right turn on a light red light. As with most streets on Long Island, you are legally allowed to turn on red so long as you come to a full stop and then proceed when it was safe to do so. With his right signal on, the driver did just that, but all was not good, even though he followed the rules properly.

It just so happened that a young boy was riding his bike on the road the driver was turning into. The boy was traveling north and just when the kid came to the intersection, the driver began to turn. Since he was making a right turn to head south, he only looked to his left (north) to make sure there were no oncoming cars. He never gave it a thought to look to his right as well. 

The result, he hit the bike and knocked the boy off. The man got out of the car and the boy was not hurt, nor was the bike damaged. Fortunately, it all worked out but it could have been much worse. The boy did say to the driver why didn’t you stop? He replied that he was looking the other way for oncoming traffic. 

That is where the driver went wrong. According to the NYS DMV, when you come to a red light, you must yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Had there been a police report, the driver would have been given a citation. Had the boy been injured, the driver would have been in serious trouble.

In this article, we are going to take a look at the laws of the road on Long Island and what consequences can occur if these laws are not followed. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, approximately 60% of adults in New York commute to work by car on a daily basis. Unfortunately, many of these commuters get ticketed for violating traffic laws. If you’re a driver who lives or frequently drives through Long Island, it’s important that you understand the area’s specific traffic laws and avoid getting ticketed. 

The following information details some of the most commonly violated traffic laws on Long Island.

Distracted Driving

Don’t touch that cell phone when driving! That’s it. No way around it. 

Man holding cell phone while driving
Photo: iStock

And parents take note: Teenagers are notorious for texting while driving. In one instance, a 17-year-old girl who just recently got her license was heading north on the Southern State Parkway, near Malverne. The next thing she knew, she rammed a van in front of her. Fortunately, there were no injuries and only light damage. They both pulled over to swap information; however, the people driving the van did not want to file a police report, so they left without any paperwork, but that didn’t stop the parents from looking into this incident further. They accessed their daughter’s cell phone records and found that when the daughter called and said she was in an accident, there were numerous texts timestamped at about that same time. 

Distracted driving is one of the most serious offenses and is nothing to take lightly. Anything that will result in taking your attention away from the road is prone to an accident and that includes texting, eating, putting on makeup, or even talking to passengers in your car. 

Driving distracted can increase your chances of being in a crash by about 300% — making it just as dangerous as driving drunk (DWI). 

The list below shows the fines you can get for distracted driving.

  • First offense: Up to $200 + 5 points
  • Second offense: Up to $250  + 5 points
  • Third offense: Up to $450  + 5 points
  • Additionally, you may have to pay close to $100 for a surcharge.

Excessive Speeding

Speeding Car

Failing to obey speed limits is one of the most common driving offenses. Excessive speeding is defined as driving 15 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. Excessive speeding can lead to serious consequences including large fines, increased insurance rates, and even jail time. It is one of the most dangerous driving violations, as it increases your risk of being in a serious car crash by 400%. If you get caught with excessive speeding on Long Island, you can expect to pay a fine of $150 or more and get points.

Here is a list of fines and points you could get if you speed on Long Island (also applies to much of New York State)

MPH Over Speed Limit Points Fine up to:
1 to 10  3 $150
11 to 20 4 $300
21 to 30  6 $300
31 to 40 8 $600

Incorrect or No Equipment

Drivers operating a car or truck in Long Island are required to have a properly working horn, lights, brakes, and tires. In addition, all vehicles must have a valid license plate. If you get caught driving with any of these items missing, incorrectly installed, or broken, you can be ticketed for incorrect or no equipment. Incorrect or no equipment ticket fines can range from $50-$100.

Failure to Stop at a Stop Sign or Traffic Light

Red Traffic Light
Photo: Free Images

As mentioned, failure to stop at a traffic light or stop sign is another one of the most common driving offenses. Expect a $380 ticket if you break this law. However, if you cause an accident while failing to stop, you can be charged with a more serious moving violation that can result in much larger fines and a driver’s license suspension, as well as possible criminal charges if the circumstances call for it.

Improper Turns

Making improper turns is another common driving violation on Long Island. An improper turn is any turn that is not allowed at the location you are turning. For example, making a right turn at a red light is not allowed at most intersections in New York City. Outside of New York City, it is allowed if not otherwise marked, but you must come to a full stop before proceeding and look both ways, as our story above illustrated. If you get caught making an improper turn, and that includes not stopping completely, you can expect to pay a $288 ticket.

Obeying Parkway Traffic Laws

Just about all commercial vehicle drivers know that they are not allowed on NYS parkways, but, every once in a while, there are those that don’t, despite the fact that there are signs are posted all over these roads. Nevertheless, an occasional truck would enter the parkway and before he realizes it, his truck has it an overhead bridge with damaging consequences. Why? Because any vehicles over 10’6″ cannot enter these roads for that one main specific reason.


Driving on Long Island can be stressful at times, especially if you have to deal with heavy traffic and a high number of other drivers who may or may not be following traffic laws. Just take a drive on the Long Island Expressway during rush hour and you’ll see what we mean.

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can reduce your risk of getting a traffic ticket. First, you should always drive defensively. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Second, you should familiarize yourself with the most common traffic laws. Finally, you should consider hiring a traffic ticket lawyer if you get a ticket. A traffic ticket attorney can help you understand the charges against you and may be able to help you get your ticket reduced or possibly dismissed! 


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