All the New York Traffic Laws You Should Know

From right of way to speeding tickets, U-turns, and DUI penalties—here are all the New York traffic laws you should know.
Written by Jaya Anandjit
Edited by Jessica Barrett
New York drivers are required to follow all traffic signs and signals, maintain appropriate speed on NY roads, ensure that they and their passengers are wearing seat belts, and drive a safe and functional vehicle with all necessary features.
  • New York
    drivers must have and carry a valid driver’s license to operate a vehicle on NY roads.
  • Car insurance is legally required for all New York state drivers, and they must hold at least the state’s minimum coverage limits.
  • Failure to obey traffic signs in New York can result in fines and two driving record points.
  • Approximately 30% of all traffic fatalities in New York involve speeding, which is illegal throughout the state.

New York general traffic laws

New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Laws are defined under the
Consolidated Laws of New York
and the
New York State Driver’s Manual
, which provide detailed descriptions of each regulation. Whether you are a new driver, an experienced driver, or an Empire State visitor, you are required to follow the state’s vehicle and traffic laws at all times.
In this article, we’ve summarized the most important New York vehicle and traffic laws to help you navigate the rules of the road like a pro. Let’s start with the essentials.

Driver’s license laws

You must hold and carry a valid driver's license to legally drive in the state of New York. New York’s traffic laws outline the following driver’s license regulations: 
  • Visiting drivers are permitted to operate vehicles in New York with a valid out-of-state license.
  • New residents of the state must acquire a New York driver's license within 30 days of moving to the state, and they cannot hold both an NY license and an out-of-state license.
  • New drivers with learner’s permits or junior driver's licenses are subject to regional restrictions and may face license suspensions for serious traffic violations of three points or more. 
  • Drivers who pass their driver's license road test at 18 years of age or older must fulfill a six-month probationary period, in which certain traffic violations may lead to a suspension of their driving privileges.
If you are stopped by law enforcement while driving in New York, you will need to present your driver’s license and your proof of insurance.
Driving without a license
in New York could result in steep penalties, including fines between $75 to $300, a state-mandatory surcharge of $88 to $93, and increased auto insurance rates.  

Insurance laws

Alongside a valid driver’s license, all New York motorists must carry their proof of auto
liability coverage
in electronic or physical paper format. Drivers in New York are required to show that they meet the
state’s minimum car insurance
coverage limits, which include the following: 
It is illegal to
drive without a valid car insurance policy
in the state of New York, and doing so will result in penalties and fines if you are pulled over by law enforcement. Without
proof of insurance
in New York, you could face the following: 
  • Driver’s license and vehicle registration suspension
  • Driver’s license and vehicle registration revocation for up to one year if you are involved in an accident without insurance
  • Up to $1,500 in fines
  • Up to $750 in civil penalty for license reinstatement following revocation
  • A $50 license suspension termination fee
  • Vehicle impoundment
Pro Tip Find the best car insurance provider and rate in New York by comparing
car insurance quotes
from at least three to five different providers. You can fill out online forms and call each insurer, or you can use a handy car insurance comparison tool to secure the most affordable rate.

Right of way

Under different circumstances, New York law requires drivers to yield the
right of way
to pedestrians, bicyclists, and other drivers. Here are eight examples that could result in infractions if infringed: 
  • Drivers going through intersections must yield the right of way to drivers already in the intersection making a left turn.
  • Drivers making left turns through intersections must yield the right of way to drivers already going straight through the intersection.
  • Drivers turning left into parking lots or driveways must yield to drivers, bicyclists, or pedestrians passing in the other lane or on the sidewalk. 
  • At a stop sign, the driver on the left must yield to the driver on the right.
  • When entering a roadway, drivers must yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians.
  • Drivers must yield to pedestrians, cyclists, horses, and other animals.
  • Drivers must yield to moving, stopped, or parked emergency vehicles including fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, and other first responders.
  • Drivers must take caution at rotary traffic circles or roundabouts.
Failure to yield right-of-way can result in 3 points and an $85 surcharge, plus the following fines:
Failure to yield resulting in injury to a pedestrian or bicyclist
$500 fine and/or imprisonment for no more than 15 days
Failure to yield resulting in serious injury to a pedestrian or bicyclist
$750 fine or imprisonment for no more than 15 days or required participation in a motor vehicle accident prevention course
Second offenses within five years
$1,000 fine and additional penalties

Passing and turning

Whether they are switching lanes or turning from one road to another, New York drivers are required to follow certain regulations while passing and turning. Here’s a rundown of New York’s passing and turning laws:
  • Drivers must use their turn signals or hand signals when they are turning from one road to another, changing lanes, entering or leaving a highway, pulling over to the side of the road, or pulling out of a parking spot on the side of the road. 
  • Turn signals or hand signals must be used 100 feet or 30 meters ahead of the movement, and signaling is recommended before braking. 
  • When making left turns, drivers must turn into the left lane of a one-way street or the left lane on the right side of a two-way street.
  • New York drivers can make U-turns from the left side of a lane or the left lane of a street to the centerline of the road.
  • U-turns are prohibited in the following scenarios: From the right lane, near the top of a hill, on a limited access expressway, in a school zone, or where a NO U-TURN sign is present. 
  • Drivers must not pass a school bus that is flashing its red lights. Instead, they must stop at least 20 feet or 6 meters away from the vehicle. Failure to adhere to this law can result in fines between $250 to $300.
  • Right turns at red lights
    are legal throughout most of New York, but they are illegal in New York City unless a sign indicates otherwise.
Drivers can pass on the right when:
  • A vehicle makes a left turn ahead of you
  • Passing is permitted on a two-way or one-way road with two or more lanes
Drivers cannot pass a vehicle on the left under these conditions:
  • A solid yellow center line divides the lanes
  • You cannot return to the right lane without crossing a solid yellow line or encountering another vehicle 200 feet or 60 meters in front of you. 
  • You are approaching the top of a hill or a bridge
  • You are within 100 feet or 30 meters of a railroad crossing
  • Passing on the left lane could unsafely interfere with incoming traffic

Parking laws

New York drivers are subject to three different types of parking regulations: 
  • Parking: Parking occurs when a vehicle is stopped and put into park, whether occupied or not, to drop off or pick up passengers or delivery items. “No parking” signs indicate if a temporary stop is prohibited.
  • Standing: Standing only applies to vehicles that are dropping off or picking up passengers. “No standing” signs mean passengers may be dropped off or picked up, but the driver cannot exit the vehicle. 
  • Stopping: Stopping includes when the vehicle is brought to a temporary or lasting stop without shifting into park. “No stopping” signs indicate that drivers can only stop if they are avoiding conflict with other vehicles or obeying a signal, traffic sign, or police officer.
With this said, it is illegal to park, stand, or stop in New York:
  • Beside a parked vehicle on the road (i.e. double parking)
  • Within 15 feet or 5 meters of a fire hydrant without a driver in the car
  • On a crosswalk or sidewalk
  • On railroad tracks
  • In an intersection
  • On a bridge 
  • In a tunnel
  • Within 30 feet or 10 meters of a pedestrian safety zone
Additionally, parking or standing is prohibited under these conditions:
  • Within 50 feet or 15 meters of a railroad crossing
  • In front of a driveway
  • Within 20 feet or six meters of an intersection crosswalk 
  • Within 30 feet or 10 meters of a stop sign, yield sign, or traffic light
  • Within 20 feet or six meters of a fire station driveway, or 75 feet or 23 meters of a fire station driveway across the road

New York speeding laws

Drivers in New York must obey the speed limits on all roadways and highways. Although New York enforces strict speed limits, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) car accident reports show that approximately 30% of all traffic fatalities in the state of New York were speeding-related in 2017. 
With this said, maintaining the correct speed and space between vehicles is crucial to avoiding collisions and hefty penalties in New York. 

Speed limits

Speed limits are typically posted on signs along New York roadways, but the New York State Driver’s Manual encourages drivers to operate their vehicles at a mile or two below the limit. 
Drivers can expect the following speed restrictions in the state of New York:
  • Within city limits: 30-35 mph (48-72 km/h)
  • Highways outside city limits: 55 mph (88 km/h)
  • Interstates: 55-65 mph (89-105 km/h)
  • If no speed limit is posted within city limits: 25 mph (48 km/h) 
Data from the 2022 New York City Traffic Tickets Statistics show that 105,775 speeding tickets were issued from January 2022 to November 2022. Amongst speeding tickets, penalties for speeding in New York are as follows:
Possible jail time
Driving record points
Up to 10 mph over the limit
$45 to $150
No more than 15 days
Three points
11 to 20 mph over the limit
$90 to $180
No more than 30 days
Four points
21 to 30 mph over the limit
$180 to $300
No more than 30 days
Six points
30+ mph over the limit
$180 to $600
No more than 30 days
Eight to 11 points
Keep in mind: Street racing and drag racing are strictly prohibited in New York and considered Class A misdemeanors. Racers can face high fines, driving record points, license suspensions, and even jail time depending on the circumstances. 

Move over laws

laws in New York
require drivers to move one full lane over to the left when emergency vehicles are present on the road. Emergency vehicles include the following:
  • Ambulances
  • Fire trucks
  • Police vehicles
  • Tow trucks
  • Road maintenance vehicles and city vehicles
  • Sanitation vehicles
Drivers who fail to indicate and move one lane away from emergency vehicles may face fines of up to $150 for a first offense, plus points on their driving record. 

New York car accident laws

New York car accident laws
outline rules and regulations for drivers involved in car accidents. 
First and foremost, drivers must stop at the scene of the accident and ensure that everyone involved is uninjured. If injuries occurred, 911 should be contacted immediately. 
Both drivers are encouraged to document the accident with pictures and videos, plus exchange the following information for legal and car insurance purposes: 
  • Full name and address
  • Vehicle registration number
  • Driver license number 
  • Name of insurance provider
Drivers may also need to report the accident to the police or to the DMV. 
You must report a collision to the police if: 
  • The accident results in injury or death 
  • A domestic animal was injured or killed
  • A parked vehicle or other property is damaged
  • The accident occurred on a public highway outside of city limits (report to New York highway patrol)
You must report a car accident to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if:
  • The accident results in bodily injury or death 
  • The property damages from the accident are worth more than $1,000
Failure to stop for an accident in New York is strictly prohibited and can count as a felony if serious injuries or death occurred.
Leaving the scene of an accident where no injuries occurred
  • Fine of up to $250
  • State-mandatory surcharge of $88 to $93
  • Three driving record points
  • Possible license suspension
  • Jail for up to 15 days
Leaving the scene of an accident where injuries occurred
  • Fine between $250 to $2,500
  • Jail time between one to four years
  • Driving record points
  • Possible license suspension
Leaving the scene of an accident where death occurred
  • Fines between $2,000 to $5,000
  • Jail time of up to seven years
  • Driving record points
  • License suspension

New York DUI laws

Like many other states, driving while intoxicated (DWI) or
driving under the influence
(DUI) is considered
reckless driving
and counts as a chargeable offense in New York. 
NY law enforcement uses DWI regulations, which restrict drivers from operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In spite of these regulations, New York State Police found that over 30% of fatal car crashes involve alcohol consumption, and the NHTSA states that 16% of weekend nighttime drivers test positive for illegal drugs.
To combat these high rates of DWI incidents,
New York's DUI laws
outline the following limitations:
  • Alcohol consumption over 21 years old: Persons 21 or older cannot drive with a blood alcohol level (BAC) greater than 0.08%.
  • Alcohol consumption for commercial drivers: Persons with commercial driver’s licenses cannot drive with a BAC greater than 0.04%.
  • Alcohol consumption for minors: Persons under 21 years of age cannot drive with a BAC higher than 0.02%.
  • Drug use: Drivers cannot operate a vehicle under the influence of inebriating drugs, including marijuana and over-the-counter drugs.
  • Drug and alcohol tests: If you are lawfully arrested for a DWI in New York, you are legally required to submit a breath test, urine test, or blood test without the right to legal counsel. Refusing a chemical test can result in fines of up to $500 and license suspensions.
Penalties for DWI
charges depend on the type of offense. Drivers can be charged for DWI, alcohol-DWAI (driving while ability impaired), drug-DWAI, combination-DWAI, and aggravated DWI.
$300 to $500 fine
Up to 15 days in jail 
Three-month minimum license suspension
Possible vehicle impoundment
Ignition interlock device 
$500 to $1,000 fine
One year in jail 
Six-month minimum license suspension
Possible vehicle impoundment
Ignition interlock device 
$500 to $1,000 fine
One year in jail 
Six-month minimum license suspension
Possible vehicle impoundment
Ignition interlock device 
Aggravated DWAI
$1,000 to $2,500 fine
One year in jail 
One-year minimum license suspension
Possible vehicle impoundment
Ignition interlock device 
Penalties for underage drivers are as follows:
  • $125 civic penalty 
  • $100 for license suspension
  • License suspension for six months (first offense)
  • License suspension for one year or until age 21 (second offense)
  • Possible vehicle impoundment
  • Possible ignition interlock device

New York distracted driving laws

New York car accidents are often attributed to intoxicated drivers, but distracted drivers are also huge contributors to fatal crashes. According to New York’s Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), 20% of collisions—or 1 in 5—are due to distracted driving. 
The GTSC uses guidelines from the NHTSA to define distracted driving as any of the following acts:
  • Driving while engaged in a secondary task that requires one or more of your hands or your eyesight
  • Driving while drowsy
  • Inattention to the forward roadway 
  • Talking, listening, or typing on a hand-held device
In the state of New York,
texting and driving
or talking on the phone while driving is prohibited if the driver is using a handheld device. This law is a response to the high rates of distracted driving-related collisions throughout the state. For example, a 2018 report shows that New York State Police issued 2,772 distracted driving tickets for cell phone use while driving. 
Driving with texting can result in the following penalties for fully licensed drivers:
Driver’s license points
Distracted driving 1st offense
$50 to $200
Five points
Distracted driving 2nd offense within 8 months
$50 to $200
Five points
Distracted driving 3rd offense within 18 months
$50 to $450
Five points

New York seat belt laws

Seat belt laws
in New York are designed to keep passengers and drivers safe while in a moving or stationary vehicle. These laws require drivers and all vehicle passengers to wear seat belts. 
Drivers are liable for any passengers under the age of 16, and passengers over 16 years old are accountable for themselves. Children younger than four must be in a child safety seat, and children under the age of eight must be secured in booster seats, safety seats, vests, or harnesses. 
Failure to comply with New York’s seat belt laws or
car seat laws
may result in the following penalties: 
Passenger younger than 16 years old without a seat belt
$25 to $100 fine and 3 driver’s license points (charged to the driver)
Passenger over the age of 16 without a seat belt
$50 fine (charged to the passenger)
Failure to secure a child in the appropriate child safety seat
$50 to $100 fine and 3 driver’s license points (charged to the driver)
Driver without a seatbelt
$50 fine and 3 driver’s license points
Keep in mind: Multiple seat belt violations will lead to higher fines and more points on your driving record. If both you and your passenger are not wearing seatbelts, you could face double the driver’s license points and a steeper fine. 

The weirdest driving laws in New York

Here are some of the very specific and funny laws we found in Long Island, New York towns and villages:
  • In the town of Oyster Bay, cars must have regular emergency-type sounds—no funny noises or songs are allowed.
  • In the Village of Sag Harbor, it is illegal to disrobe in your vehicle.
  • In the village of Southampton, it is illegal to sleep in your car between the hours of 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. on any street, park, recreation area, beach access road, or parking area owned, controlled, operated, or maintained by the village.
  • In the Village of West Hampton Dunes, each residential home is permitted to have one parked car per bedroom, plus one extra, during overnight hours.
Also, if you find yourself driving in
New York City
, there’s a law you don’t always see in other places—you are never allowed to turn right on red unless there is a sign indicating permission.


U-turns are legal in New York, but you cannot make U-turns under the following conditions:
  • At the top of a hill
  • In the business districts of NYC, unless signs indicate otherwise
  • On a highway
  • At a curve or location where other drivers cannot see you within 500 feet
  • On a limited-access expressway
  • In a school zone
Drivers cannot legally speed to pass other vehicles in New York. Under New York traffic laws, drivers are required to change lanes or pass other vehicles with caution, and within the speed limit on that road.
Yes, New York is strict on DUIs and DWIs. Driving under the influence in New York can result in fines between $300 to $2,500, jail time, license suspensions, and a mandatory ignition interlock device.
A DUI in New York can remain on your car insurance record for up to ten years, but most insurance companies only look at driving records from the past three to five years. 
If you have a DUI on your New York driving record, your insurance company will likely account for it beyond the usual three- to five-year limit of less serious infractions.
There is no official law that prohibits eating and driving in New York, but you may be pulled over by law enforcement for distracted driving if you are seen using one of your hands to hold your food, or if your eyesight is directed away from the road.
Motorcycles are prohibited from lane splitting or lane filtering in New York. The motorcycle drivers who are exempt from this rule are on-duty police officers.
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