Is it Legal to Cut Through a Parking Lot to Avoid a Red Light in Texas?

As a driver, you might have often thought of taking a cut through a parking lot to avoid a red light or traffic jam. It might seem like a tempting way to save time and avoid traffic hassle, but is it legal? The answer to this question varies from one state to another, but most states have laws related to avoiding traffic signals. Below, we’re going to delve into the laws in Texas and beyond regarding cutting through a parking lot to avoid a red light.

Rat Running: Avoiding a Traffic Signal by Cutting a Corner

If you cut through a parking lot to avoid a traffic signal, that action is commonly referred to as “rat running” (also referred to as cut-through driving or rodent running). For example, if traffic is backed up at a red light and you cut through a gas station parking lot to avoid the light, you are rat-running.

Is Rat-Running Illegal in the United States?

Most states have rat-running statutes which prohibit cutting across public or private property to avoid traffic signals or road signs. However, the penalty for rat-running and how a rat run is defined varies by state. Florida, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia all have laws criminalizing traffic signal avoidance.

In Illinois, the fine for a rat run is between $75 to $1,000. In New Jersey, the fine for rat-running ranges lower, from $50 to $200, but you may also face up to 15 days in jail. Further, municipal ordinances in many cities, such as Stillwater, Oklahoma, prohibit avoiding traffic signals by crossing onto private property.

Police motorcycle - penalty for cutting through a parking lot to avoid a red light in Texas

Texas Laws Regarding Cutting Through a Parking Lot

Traffic laws in Texas prohibit drivers from using private property to avoid traffic signals (Texas Transportation Code § 545.423). If you cut through a parking lot – or any private property – to avoid a red light, you’re breaking Texas traffic laws. This offense is a misdemeanor subject to a fine of $25 to $99 for first-time offenders, or $100 to $200 for repeat offenders. Before you consider cutting across a parking lot to avoid the wait, know that doing so could land you in legal troubles.

Exceptions to the Rule for Rat-Running in Texas

However, there are few exceptions to the rule for taking a cut through a parking lot. If you have an emergency, like if you’re rushing to a hospital or trying to avoid an accident, you can use a parking lot to get off the road safely. In such cases, you should follow the normal traffic signs, precautions, and make sure that you’re driving safely to avoid any accidents.

What Happens if You Get Caught Cutting Through A Parking Lot

If you get caught cutting through a parking lot to avoid a red light or any other traffic rule, you could face legal charges. The police officers can stop you, question you, and check your documents. They can further issue a citation or even arrest you, depending on the severity of your offense. Apart from legal charges, you might also suffer consequences, like increasing your insurance premiums, losing your license, or damaging your driving record.

Woman pulled over by the police for cutting through a parking lot in Texas

The Risks of Taking a Cut Through A Parking Lot

Apart from being illegal, cutting through a parking lot poses a significant danger to your safety and other drivers on the road. When you cut through a parking lot, you’re essentially driving on a different surface which might not be suitable for the same style of driving as a roadway. Parking lots are usually crowded with pedestrians, shoppers, and cars looking for parking spots, which increases the risk of auto accidents.

Consequences of Cutting Through A Parking Lot

Cutting through a parking lot to avoid a red light might seem like a simple and convenient solution, but it’s not worth the risk. You might save a few minutes, but it can lead to real legal and personal consequences. Besides, the traffic signal system is designed to ensure your safety and convenience, so it’s always better to wait for the light to change.

Crash where two cars are involved - Cut through a parking lot to avoid a red light leads to a motor vehicle crash.

Cutting Through a Parking Lot to Avoid a Red Light is Illegal in Texas

In summary, cutting through a parking lot to avoid a red light in Texas is illegal and poses a significant threat to safety. Even though there are few exceptions to the rule, it would be best to avoid cutting through private property to avoid traffic signals.

Remember, your safety and respect for the law should always be your primary concern as a driver. By following the rules and regulations, you can enjoy your drive in Texas, without worrying about legal and safety issues.


If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy:

Texas Dram Shop Laws: Can You Sue a Bar for Overserving a Drunk Driver in Texas?

Is it Legal to Ride in the Bed of a Truck in Texas?

How Long Do Traffic Cameras Keep Footage of Accidents in Texas?

Recent Post

Photo of car accident on road. How to Determine Who is at Fault in a Texas Car Accident

What to Do After A Car Accident in Texas

After a car accident, it is essential to remain composed and follow certain steps to safeguard your rights. These steps will not only ensure your safety but also help you

Read More


How Does the Personal Injury Claims Process Work?

Suppose you or a loved one have been injured by some else’s negligence in an accident like a motor vehicle crash, workplace accident, or slip and fall. You might decide

Read More

Car Wreck Lawyer

When To Get A Car Wreck Lawyer

Following a car accident, you may be asking yourself, “When do I need a car wreck lawyer?” The answer: It is always worth contacting a car accident attorney. Start by

Read More

Personal Injury Claims

How Long Does a Personal Injury Lawsuit Take in Texas?

The first question that many new clients ask when they are beginning the process of hiring a personal injury claims lawyer is, “how long is my personal injury case going

Read More

Car accident dispute

Is Texas an At-Fault or No-Fault State

Texas is an at-fault state for auto insurance, not a no-fault or choice no-fault state. This means that in the event of an automobile accident, the driver who is found

Read More

insurance claim attorney

Fault vs. No-Fault Insurance Laws by State in the United States

At-fault and no-fault insurance laws dictate how car insurance claims are handled after an accident. In the United States, there are three types of insurance laws related to fault in

Read More

Fire hydrant on sidewalk

How Close Can You Park to a Fire Hydrant? Complete State-by-State Guide in the U.S.

Most of us know that parking directly in front of a fire hydrant is unsafe. In the event of a fire, obstructing access to a fire hydrant could impede the

Read More

Thompson Law Guarantee

Thompson Law receives an attorney fee and you pay no legal fees as our client unless we pay you. Thompson Law has 350 years of combined experience in legal representation and has won over $1.8 billion dollars in cash settlements for our clients. We master the art of managing client cases with empathy, compassion, respect and, of course, prodigious skill. Contact us today for a free, risk-free consultation to discuss your accident and your options.

State law limits the time you have to file a claim after an auto accident. If you have been injured in an accident, call now to get the help you need.