| Driving
Focused on a red light camera at a traffic light.

Green means go, red means stop, yellow means… go faster? If you’re in the habit of pushing the pedal to the metal when a green light turns yellow, you may have accidentally run a red light.

You may have also received a red light camera ticket in the mail soon after. (Or there’s one on its way!) How do these contraptions work and what are the penalties for getting caught by a red light camera? Direct Auto explains all.

Why Are There Red Light Cameras?

There are millions of drivers on the road in America, and every day, someone runs a red light. These types of infractions cause 22% of traffic accidents each year, according to HowStuffWorks.

Red light cameras are used to discourage red light running. It wouldn’t be possible to position a police officer at every intersection to discourage risky driving on a red light, so cameras help fill the gap.

Red light cameras work, too. Cameras reduced the fatal red light running crash rate of large cities by 21%, reports the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Such success isn’t a new phenomenon. In 1992, New York became the first state to implement a red light camera program. Since then, NYC’s Department of Transportation reports a 63% decrease in intersection vehicle crashes.

Currently, dozens of cities and states around the U.S. have set up cameras at major intersections and on traffic light beams to help discourage red light runners.

How Red Light Cameras Work

Red light cameras connect to traffic signals and sensors that can sense vehicles as they approach a crosswalk or stop line. A computerized system monitors and operates all parts of the red light camera technology. The camera snaps a picture any time a vehicle doesn’t stop during the red traffic signal.

But we all know computers and technology aren’t perfect. That’s why it’s standard practice for trained personnel to review every red light camera picture or video clip before a ticket is issued.

Also, “many red light camera programs provide motorists with grace periods of up to half a second after the light switches to red,” notes the IIHS.

How Much Is a Red Light Camera Ticket?

Finding a citation in the mailbox can be a surefire way to ruin your day. Red light camera tickets can cost anywhere from $50 to $1,000 depending on your state, the location of the red light, and your driving record.

In some states, a red light camera ticket can also mean points on your driver’s license and an increase in car insurance rates. In Alabama, for example, you can pay a $100 and get 3 points on your driver’s license or pay $110 and get NO points on your driver’s license.

In Georgia, however, the maximum fee for a red light camera ticket is $70 and there’s no conviction or recorded offense, no points, and insurers don’t use the ticket against you.

The answer to, “How much is a red light camera ticket,” and, “Will this ticket appear on my driving record,” really depends on your state and local laws regarding red light cameras.

There are plenty of states where red light tickets don’t affect your driving record or insurance rates at all. Many places even give you convenient payment options, letting you pay at your nearest DMV office, mail in a check, or submit an online payment.

No matter how you choose to pay, make sure you do! Some cities may block your vehicle registration renewal until you pay your red light ticket—and it’s illegal to drive with an expired registration.

State Approx. Red Light Ticket Cost*
Alabama $110
Arizona $165
California $490
Colorado $75
Delaware $110
District of Columbia $150
Florida $158
Georgia $70
Illinois $100
Louisiana $100
Maryland $75
Missouri $100
Nevada $1,000
New Mexico $75
New York $50
North Carolina $100
Oregon $260
Pennsylvania $100
Rhode Island $75
Tennessee $50
Virginia $50
Washington Maximum parking violation fine

*Check with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Ticket prices can have additional fees, and sometimes you can pay more in exchange for fewer points on your driver’s license.

Traffic Tickets Don’t Define You

We can all agree—running a red light is dangerous and expensive. “Red light runners cause hundreds of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries each year,” reports the IIHS.

While we can’t help you avoid running red lights, we can help you recover after the fact. Tickets don’t define you at Direct Auto Insurance. Call, click, or come into your nearest Direct Auto for a free auto insurance quote. We welcome all drivers to apply for affordable car insurance, regardless of their driving record or insurance history.