Is it Illegal to Drive Across an Empty Parking Lot in New Jersey?
It's pretty tempting, isn't it?
You pull into a shopping center or mall parking lot in New Jersey and the wide-open spaces in front of you are just like the Bonneville Salt Flats -- you hit the gas and drive across countless parking spaces to get to where you are going.
But is cutting across an entire parking lot legal in the Garden State?
The answer: apparently yes and apparently no.
First of all, finding an unobstructed parking lot these days is difficult to do simply because shopping center owners don't want people speeding through. They intentionally make you turn a bunch of times and then there are endless little islands of landscaping and signs and things in the way so you can't pretend you are qualifying for the Daytona 500 while going to Target.
However, older malls and shopping center parking lots do still present that opportunity.
Now before diving into the legalities of this, keep in mind that I am not a lawyer. This is what I was able to research. Take what is below as entertainment, not solid legal advice.
Here's what is illegal about it
If you are cutting across a parking lot, private or public, to avoid a traffic signal, that is illegal in New Jersey.
Except for emergency vehicles and motor vehicles being operated at the direction of a law enforcement officer, no person shall drive a motor vehicle on public property, except public roads or highways, or private property, with or without the permission of the owner, for the purpose of avoiding a traffic control signal or sign.
In other words, you need to wait for the light to turn green instead of cutting through Walgreens.
If you don't, you can be fined up to $200, according to a New Jersey-based law firm.
Here's what appears to be legal (or at least not illegal)
It's difficult to find any solid information about driving across multiple parking spaces in a lot, however, countless posts seem to indicate that shopping center parking lots are private property and there's really nothing that says you have to stay within the rows of spots (note: just because a lot of people say the same thing, that doesn't make it true).
However, if you are speeding across and you get into an accident or, worse, hit a pedestrian, you will get to know several members of that town's police department very quickly. The same holds true if you are driving recklessly and endangering others or property.
If you can offer any legal insight into this topic, please e-mail me.