You're driving toward the intersection and you see the light turning red. You're running late for work because you forgot to set your alarm for the second time this week. It happens, but your boss isn't going to like it if you're late again. You glance over to your right at the Cumberland Farms on the corner. You can just cut through there and save yourself some time, because these lights take forever to go back to green. You just shaved about three minutes off your commute. Awesome.

I've seen this scenario happen more times than I can count. It happens a lot at the intersection of St. John Street and Brighton Avenue in Portland. It has a business with a parking lot on both sides of St. John Street, and people regularly cut through there to avoid the light.

Google Maps
Google Maps

It begs the question: is driving through a parking lot, gas station, or any other property on the corner of an intersection to avoid a traffic light in New England illegal?  I dug into the motor vehicle laws for each New England state to find out.

In most New England states, it is illegal to cut through a business or private property to avoid a traffic light. I mean, let's face it. It's private property, even if it's a Cumberland Farms. It can also be dangerous if it's a busy parking lot.

I've found that Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts all have laws prohibiting drivers from intentionally avoiding traffic lights. In Vermont, there is no law against avoiding traffic lights, but local municipalities can deem it illegal.

I tried to find Connecticut and Rhode Island's take on cutting through parking lots to avoid the light, but the motor vehicle laws on the states' websites are a jumbled mess, with search engines that won't show you what you're searching for. If you're driving in those states, just play it safe and wait for the light.

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