Red light cameras are springing up everywhere these days! As a truck driver who sometimes can’t stop for a yellow light in time (my truck weighs 80,000lbs!), I can’t stand these idiotic devices. Just because a camera said I was being unsafe doesn’t mean I actually was. Without a human verifying the unsafe behavior, these photo enforcement devices should be banned. But in reality, they are proven to reduce red light car accidents by about 50%, so they’re here to stay.
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If you get caught by a red light camera
So you’re cruisin’ along listening to your favorite tunes being tailgated by some jerk. The traffic light in front of you turns yellow. Quick decision!! You have two choices:
1. Slam on the brakes and risk being rear ended by Mr. Tailgater, thus, having a very bad day.
2. Quickly assess that the intersection is clear and proceed through the intersection, even though the light will turn red just before you get there.
Here’s the problem. Just as you get through the intersection, you notice two bright flashes of light, and you know exactly what happened. In a couple months, you’ll get a nice little notice in the mail showing your face, your license plate number, and maybe even a video of you blowing through a red light. Time to pay up!
Does that situation, and hundreds of other situations like that, seem fair? It sure as hell doesn’t to me.
Beating your red light camera ticket
Unfortunately, it’s tough to give advice about how to beat your red light camera ticket because the laws vary from state to state, and even from town to town. In some places, the ticket is a “city ordinance violation” and only costs 20 bucks or so. In other places, it’s an actual moving violation with some places charging $500 or more for a single violation!
Honestly, these violations are very hard to win in court. But there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself…
How red light cameras work
Red-light running cameras are used to prevent drivers from running red lights at intersections where collisions are most likely to take place. The ultimate goal, of course, is to lower the number of accidents due to red-light running.
Specific features and rules of these red-light cameras vary, but the way they work, the ticketing, and their effectiveness are standard across the country.
What happens here is that red-light cameras photograph vehicles that enter a specific intersection after a red light. These cameras are either attached directly to the traffic light stand or are mounted on a free-standing pole near the intersection. When a vehicle drives over the stop line when the light is red, the embedded sensors are triggered to take a photo of your rear license plate.
After this photo is taken, a trained officer will review it to make sure that the vehicle is caught running the red light. Once this is confirmed, a ticket is sent to the driver’s address found on the vehicle’s registration. Usually, within a month since the photo was taken.
So here’s the thing, red-light cameras only capture the vehicle’s license plate, not the driver’s face. Therefore, the ticket will be sent to the vehicle’s registered owner, no matter if he is the one driving or not.
So, you’ll end up being responsible to pay the ticket even if someone else was driving your car at the time the photo was taken. There’s just no way to have the ticket transferred to him, as by the time you received the ticket, you may have forgotten the incident.
Were you actually at fault?
Look, we all make mistakes while driving. We speed from time to time, we roll stop signs, we don’t use our turn signals, and once in a great while, we run a light. If you were at fault and you just so happened to get caught this time, make sure you really want to fight this thing. Not only are these tickets hard to fight, it’ll take up your time and test your patience too.
A better option, instead of trying to beat it all together, is coming up with a plea bargain. Admit you were in the wrong, but tell them finances are very tight. Offer to take an online driving school to have the infraction dismissed from your record. They’ll probably allow this. I’ve reviewed a bunch of online traffic school courses for you already.
If you had a good reason
Yes, there are times when you have a good reason to run a red light. Maybe you didn’t want to get rear ended? Perhaps the light was malfunctioning and you were waiting for an extended period of time before finally going through? There are a ton of reason why you may have ran the light.
If that’s the case, explain this to the court. Tell them that you were fully aware the light was turning red, but you went through for the sake of safety. Always stress safety when arguing with the court. If it was safer to proceed through the light rather than stop, they’ll be interested in your case. But it better be a good one. Bring any evidence you can.
If there was a malfunction
Like all technology, these red light cameras malfunction from time to time. Usually, if there is a malfunction, it’s because you made a right on red where legal. Try to bring in any proof you can to show you were turning right, and not proceeding through the intersection.
Also, if the photo of your face or the photo of your license plate is blurry, force the prosecutor to prove it was you. Just remember, these traffic lawyers do this for a living and they have their ways of proving things. So if the photo really is of your car, don’t test your luck.
If you weren’t the driver
Bring the driver to court with you and have them testify on your behalf. If they are a true friend, they’ll do this for you. Otherwise, bring in anything that proves you weren’t driving at the time. Work records, receipts, witnesses, etc. It’s your only shot.
If you get convicted anyway
Regardless of if you were at fault or not, you may still get convicted. If that happens, try to protect your driving record at all costs. Either plea with the court to reduce it to a non-moving violation, or take an online driving school to reduce your points and keep your insurance rate down.
Check out my online traffic school reviews to pick a good online course.