Do traffic laws apply in parking lots?

Do traffic laws, specifically stop signs, pedestrian crosswalks, right-of-way, speed limits, etc. apply in parking lots?

I’m thinking of a large shopping mall with acres of parking spaces and a perimeter road running around it all. It’s my understanding that this “road” is actually private property. On a detailed street level map the mall is just a shaded area, the individual “roads” are not shown on the map like publicly maintained roads are (the shopping mall “road” isn’t named, either, like public roads).

It’s also my understanding that traffic laws (stop signs, etc. from the 1st paragraph) don’t apply on private property. E.g. a drivers license isn’t required to operate a motor vehicle on private property (I drove the family car in the field next to grandma’s house when I was 10 years old). Of course, if I was driving at a high rate of speed (on private property) and hit somebody I could be charged with assault or reckless something-or-other, but speeding?

The “roads” around the shopping mall have all the traffic control signs mentioned earlier. But… since it’s private property, do I really have to follow them?

Disclaimer - no, I won’t be impudently mowing down pedestrians in crosswalks nor creating unsafe conditions for other drivers just because “Hey, I wasn’t required to stop at that sign.”

But when there’s nothing but empty blacktop for 1000 feet around me, could I get a ticket for not stopping at a stop sign? (Public road - yes. Private property - ??? ??? ???)


Along the same lines: if I hit a parked vehicle in a lot, and that vehicle is parked in a clearly marked “No Parking” area (with red curb), who is liable for the damage?

In Virginia, traffic laws apply to all roads open to the public, be they public or privately-owned. Grandma’s farm would be exempt, unless she invited the public to drive around it, but the mall would be covered.

California Vehicle Code Section 14605 says you need a license to drive in a parking lot.
Section 23103 states that “reckless driving” can be charged against persons who are just driving in a parking lot.

I would think putting these two sections together, one would have a very hard time convincing a judge to throw out a ticket for something like failure to yield, just because it happened in a parking lot.

  1. It varies a lot from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But generally, some laws do apply and some don’t. And there is a related issue about whether the police have “jurisdiction” to enforce the traffic laws in a parking lot. Again, it varies.

  2. If you hit a parked car, the test will be the same wherever you are: Did you exercise the care that an ordinary prudent person would have used. If you did not, the fact that the other vehicle was illegally parked, stolen, overweight, or had expired tags will not save you.

  3. And here we come full circle. If you speed through the parking lot and hit another car or a pedestrian, your failure to observe posted speed limit signs and comply with stop and yield signs will certainly count against you. Depending on the jurisdiction, you may or may not get a ticket, but if you get sued, the jury will consider these things.

I used to work at a coffee shop in a large mall like described in the OP. Being a coffee shop and cops being cops, the police that would walk the mall detail would often come by for a complimentary cup and to shoot the breeze. My fellow employees and I got to know several of them pretty well and many jokes would center around doing ‘bad’ but not illegal things and how they (the police) couldn’t touch us.

Anyway, the subject of ticketing in the mall parking lot came up and we were told that they could only ticket for:

  1. Reckless driving (Like hood surfing, drag racing or clearly dangerous stunts. Donuts in the snow probably wouldn’t qualify…we asked)
  2. Driving under the influence
  3. Fire lane and handicapped parking violations

Accidents and collisions, unless willful, are civil insurance matters.
Also, I know before I had my drivers license, I would have my folks drive me to a local parking lot for practice. My lawyer father didn’t seem to think there was a problem with this

Not conclusive, but makes sence to me.
This was in near NW Suburban Chicago.

Traffic laws are definitely in effect on federal property.
Once drove the wrong way in the IRS parking lot. The gung ho security guard pulled his gun on me!

The local shopping mall here, in northeast Pa, has traffic signs, speed limits and a police station that tickets offenders.

Yeah, but what laws? Federal property is under the jurisdiction of the federal government, and I’m sure they have laws governing their parking lots.

To be more exact, the federal government has primary jurisdiction, but if it elects not to exercise its jurisdiction, the local government can enforce its own laws. However, since a federal security guard stopped you, he was enforcing the federal law.

So in other words, the guard really did decide to make a Federal case out of it?

Do you seriously think that those traffic things are just there for show?

Of course you have to obey them.

To do otherwise shows that

A) You are a reckless driver

B) You think the rules of civilized society somehow don’t apply to you

C) You are a colossal idiot who deserves to have their driving privileges permanently revoked.

And I’ve gone down public roads that weren’t on a map and they had various traffic signals and you can be damn sure i obeyed them.

In NY, the lot owner can apply to the local jurisdiction to have the traffic laws enforced at the location.

Mall owners can contract with the pd to provide traffic and parking enforcement in their parking lots.
I remember seeing that in another thread here. I checked it out and found it to be true. At least here in CA.

As others wrote, it depends on the jurisdiction. However, most states also have laws and regulations on what constitutes a stop/speed limit/yield/etc sign, and how it must be placed. I’ve seen plenty of shopping malls with signs that obviously don’t meet the state’s regulations. Things like stop signs that are too low, or speed limits below the minimum allowed by the state, etc.

For a while I lived in a gated community with private roads. Traffic was getting to be a problem, but police would never ticket anybody. It turns out that they couldn’t - none of the signs met regulations. Eventually all of the posts and signs were replaced, and the police started ticketing. (of course the community never took out the silly speed bumps, including ones that were 5 feet past a stop sign)

Woah! Hold on there tiger*. You do know that traffic safety laws are fairly arbitrary, right?

The question the OP is asking is DO the “rules of society” apply to parking lots. The question isn’t about whether you SHOULD follow the rules. The question is about whether you HAVE to follow the rules. Your reply was about whether you SHOULD follow the rules. And I have to reply to your first question with a resounding YES! Those signs ARE posted just for show. In many jurisdictions they don’t have the law behind them. They just hope that most drivers will follow them because many drivers think they HAVE to. Others, like myself, know that the signs in parking lots have no meaning except to give the illusion of safety. I follow them, within reason. If it’s safe to break the “rule” then I break it, with a certain amount of care. In fact, I am more careful BECAUSE the laws don’t apply. I am more careLESS on the roads because the laws are there for our safety. I don’t have to worry about safety because the lawyers have it all figured out. In a parking lot it’s a whole different story. I have to figure it out for myself, and I don’t trust myself (and others) too much in that area. And don’t even begin to think that a 15mph sign in a parking lot has any basis in safety. It’s all about protection from lawsuits.

The thing is that legal decisions about what speed limits to use and where to put stop signs aren’t just random. They do studies. There are facts behind the 45mph on an access road and 20mph in a school zone. The signs in these parking lots don’t have any scientific or statistical basis in reality. They are just arbitrarily placed where “some guy” thinks they belong. I don’t know who that “some guy” is, but I know for damn sure it’s not a traffic engineer. And listen to what 5cents is saying. A great deal of these signs don’t even LOOK like legal stop signs, much less conform to the more obscure rules regarding visibility and reason. And let me ask you, if you purchased or made a 20mph speed limit sign and placed it in your front yard, would it be legal? It’s your property. (People who live on the water often put “no wake zone” signs by their houses but the signs have no legal status. Some do, but many don’t.) Should you be allowed to limit people’s speed yourself? Could you make people drive 20mph just by putting a sign there? I don’t think so. In fact YOU would probably get in trouble. I don’t see this as much different from putting a 15mph sign in a parking lot. Sure, sure, you are limiting a public access road, where a parking lot sign isn’t, but you are concerned about your family on your property, just as a parking lot owner is concerned about his patrons. Shouldn’t you be allowed to protect your family too?

To the OP:
I remember in traffic school (defensive driving too) when a student asked the teacher this. The teacher said that the traffic laws don’t apply in a parking lot. You can shoot right through those stop signs, in Texas anyway. I wouldn’t do it in front of a cop though. Well, maybe I would, but I wouldn’t if I were you.

Hey! How about this? Is it legal to cut through private property (like a gas station) to avoid a light? I got pulled over for doing this once, but the cop didn’t give me a ticket. I think if I remember correctly (it was a while back during my Pizza Hut days - I was pretty belligerant.) I told him I thought it wasn’t illegal. Then he said he might just call the property owner and ask HIS opinion on the matter. Then maybe the owner would press charges. So I think in this case it would be considered trespassing, but it wouldn’t be a driving violation.

  • Let me guess. You are one of those people that drives the speed limit in the left lane on a freeway full of cars going 15mph above the speed limit. Am I correct? You know that the safest speed vs. convenience is probably not 55mph. When 55mph was adopted this speed was probably some wierd number like 62mph. But 55mph gave a bit of extra safety and it was a nice round(er) number. Plus let’s not forget the revenue.

I got a ticket (in Bakersfield, CA) back in '69 or so for cutting through a gas station lot. I, too, thought it couldn’t be illegal, but the judge just chuckled and informed me of the fine.
To add insult to injury, the light changed while I was making my brilliant move, and all those drivers who I was trying to outmaneuver got ahead of me. Also, the cop tagged me in the driveway and everybody got to enjoy my humiliation.
Oh, yeah. My GF (soon to be wife) was with me. My comment to her as I began my brilliant move? “I ain’t waiting for these suckers, babe,”
I was sooo cool. :cool:

Got into a fender-bender in a parking lot here in GA. Cops came and asked all the usual questions but the officer told me it was just for the accident report; “This is private property so I can’t ticket you.” Yeah, my fault – oops.


Fuck you, TartPops.

Go visit your very own thread in the Pit. (Hint: it’s the one with your name in the title.)

Oooops, my bad. I meant to say:

To everyone who thoughtfully responded to my OP - thank you. You’ve been quite helpful.

To everyone else (actually, that would just be TartPops) - fuck you.

Careful JJM, no F-Bombs in GQ.