Red light cameras are automated photo enforcement devices that automatically issue red light camera tickets to violators. They’re widely used in many countries in order to prevent accidents caused by people running a red light.
A total of 23 states, including the District of Columbia, permit the red light camera program, while others including Maine, Ohio, and New Hampshire prevent the program from issuing tickets to motorists.
In this article, we go over the most common questions you may have on red light tickets. We talk about the basic what’s and how’s on the entire topic so you’ll never get confused again when it comes to a red light violation.
What is a red light violation?
There are actually two ways drivers can run a red light.
First, if you enter an intersection after the traffic signal became red.
Second, if you didn’t completely stop before turning while the indicator is a red light. Depending on the law, there are certain days or hours when it’s prohibited to turn right on a red light. You must come to a complete stop before turning on red to make sure the way is clear, then make a turn without waiting for green.
How is a red light violation detected?
As previously discussed, red light cameras are the devices used by law enforcement to detect any drivers running a red light. It’s an automated photo enforcement program that’s installed in many countries and states, including the District of Columbia.
These cameras take multiple photos of a vehicle, including the driver and the license plate, whenever the sensor in the intersection is triggered during a red traffic signal. These photos are sent to the corresponding department and are checked by a police officer for validity. A citation is then sent to the owner’s house through mail. Additionally, you’ll be receiving the photos with the date, time, car speed, intersection location, and the elapsed time between when the light turned red and when the car gets into the intersection. You then have to pay the corresponding fines, which is a topic discussed further in this article.
What if I’m the owner but I was not the driver during the violation?
If you’re the registered owner of a vehicle and you weren’t the driver during the time of the violation, you can breathe. Most state laws dictate the driver is responsible for paying the fine, not the owner. So if your car was stolen or rented, you can contest the ticket in court by providing additional evidence such as a police report and a rental or lease agreement. If you’ve proven that, you don’t have to pay the fines. But in some states, you need to provide identity of the driver.
Then again, there are some states like New York that treat red light tickets like parking tickets, where the owners of the vehicle are responsible for the fine and not the driver. Make sure to check your local state laws just to be sure.
How much is the fine for a red light ticket?
The cost of red light tickets depends on several factors like the jurisdiction, time of day, and circumstances during the violation. But generally, fines range from $50 to $500.
What happens if you don’t pay your ticket?
In many states, a driver cannot go to jail because of a red light camera ticket. However, not paying for it may lead to further fines and penalties.
A red light conviction also adds points to your driving record. Most violations add one point, but in the Washington DC DMV, it’s at least two points. Points can be removed if you don’t have another conviction in a specified number of months or if you attend an online traffic school, which you have to pay for.
How to pay a red light ticket?
There are several ways drivers can pay the fine for a red light ticket. You can mail money or check to the court address, pay over the phone, go to the courthouse website and make an online payment, or visit the court in person to make a payment there. Typically, credit cards, bank cards, money orders, checks, and cash are accepted.
How to fight a red light ticket?
If you have a strong case and want to contest your violation, you can do so by going to court. These are some scenarios when a driver can beat a red light ticket:
- Photos taken by the camera were not clear enough to prove the identity of the driver and the license plate of the vehicle
- It was necessary to run the light to give way to an emergency vehicle
- A police officer directed the driver to go through the light
- Another person was driving the vehicle and the violation happened due to a criminal or fraudulent act (e.g. if your car is stolen)
- The camera was malfunctioning during the time the photos were taken
- It was necessary to run the light to avoid an accident
It’s important to gather as much evidence as you can. Take the photos mailed to you when you received the citation. Request for the photos if you live in a state where they must be requested. If your car was stolen and the thief ran the lights speeding, you must prove through photos or footage that it wasn’t you who operated the vehicle during the violation.
If you have a dashcam, you can use that to provide evidence too. You can also use footage or testimony from an eyewitness.
Additionally, it can be a ground for non-conviction if there were no signages that say photo enforcement was in place in the area. Again, check your local laws.
How to Avoid a Red Light Ticket?
Aside from obviously not running the light, you can check the locations of the cameras in your area. Don’t confuse traffic camera with redlight camera though, as they are different from each other. You can view their differences on this traffic camera vs redlight camera comparison. You can also buy a radar detector with a red light and speed camera map database. There are also mobile apps that contain a red light and speeding camera map. You can download these regardless if you have an Android or iOs. Furthermore, there are tons of red light and speed cameras map you can explore and toggle navigation if you’re driving across states.
Now that we’ve answered all your burning questions about red light tickets, you can go out there and enter the road with more confidence as you have more knowledge now. If ever you want state-specific laws, you can always check online on your local website. Just remember to always drive responsibly and prioritize your safety on the road.
For other tips, check our other pages on speeding tickets and traffic violations, starting with this article about saving yourself from a DUI citation.