Failure to obey a traffic control device explained

Often motorists are stopped for speeding, but rather than a ticket for that offense, the arresting officer may issue a ticket for “failure to obey a traffic control device.” So, what’s the difference?

A traffic control device is any sign, signal, pavement marking, or any legally installed device erected by authority of a public body or official having jurisdiction for the purpose of regulating, warning or guiding traffic. Most commonly this means traffic signals, regulatory and warning signs, and all pavement markings.

Now, let’s go back to the speeding violation. Technically, you have violated two traffic laws – you were speeding (violation of V & T Law, section 1180) and you also did not obey a traffic control device – the speed limit sign (V & T section 1110). It is up to the discretion of the officer what ticket he/she will issue, or whether to only give out a warning.

However, the penalties are different. If the arresting officer were to issue a driver a speeding ticket for driving 10 mph or less over the posted legal limit, it would carry three points against the driver’s license. For 11 to 20 mph over the limit, it is four points; 21-30 is six, 31-40 is eight, and for over 40 mph, the penalty is 11 points.

On the other hand, a ticket for failure to obey a TCD carries only two points against your license. Fines are also lower for this offense than for speeding. For instance, the fine for a first offense is a maximum of $150 not counting surcharges. For speeding 15 mph over the speed limit, the maximum fine is $300 plus surcharges. Furthermore, if you are convicted of speeding three times within 18 months, revocation of your license is mandatory.

Failure to obey a TCD may also be written for going through a red light, stop sign, passing in a no-passing zone, going the wrong way on a one-way street and many others. In all these examples, in addition to violating the V & T laws for running red lights, stop signs, illegal passing, driving on one-way streets and many others, the driver also failed to obey a TCD. The best advice is obviously for everyone to obey all laws and traffic control devices; then no tickets or warnings will be warranted. You’ll also avoid the stress and the delay of a traffic stop.

For more articles on traffic law and safety, go to the traffic safety board’s web site at: and click on “Traffic Safety Board” under departments then look for Did You Know articles under “service.”