Can I Contest a Red Light Ticket?

Did you recently receive a pricey redlight camera ticket in the mail? If you live in a state where points are assigned to your driving record for red light camera tickets, you are probably worried about increased insurance rates. There’s also the fear of driver’s license revocation in addition to paying the red light ticket.

Luckily, it is possible for drivers to contest a red light ticket so that their driving records stay clean.

To help you navigate through the stressful process of understanding red light ticket forgiveness and insurance rates, we are going to cover the main ways you can contest a ticket, what states you need to watch out for red light cameras in, and what to do if you can’t get your ticket overturned.

How to Contest a Red Light Ticket

To get a red light ticket scratched from your driving record, you will need a valid reason to contest the red light ticket. If you don’t have a valid reason, then you will simply have to deal with the consequences of the ticket. So what should you do to start the process of challenging your red light ticket?

If the pictures or videos weren’t mailed to you, then the first thing you will need to do is obtain the pictures or videos. The information on how to do this will be on the red light ticket that you received in the mail.

Once you’ve looked over the pictures or videos, you will need to create a plausible argument for why the red light ticket is invalid. According to the legal site NOLO, three of the most common reasons to contest a red light ticket in any state are:

       You (the vehicle owner) wasn’t driving. Most states will accept an affidavit saying you weren’t driving. You will have to check your local state laws to make sure.  

       The photo or video doesn’t show the vehicle violating a red light. This is an easy win, as it means the camera and the reviewer made a mistake when they ticketed you.

       There weren’t proper warning signs showing that a red light camera was at the intersection. This only works in states where the law requires red light camera signs. Once again, this means you will have to do a little research to check your local state laws.

A few other valid reasons that may work to drop your red light ticket include turning right at a red light (as long as there is no sign prohibiting right turns on red), yielding to police or emergency vehicle, or passing the red light to avoid an accident (moving out of the way if someone was going to rear-end you, for example).

Once you have a clear, defendable reason for why the red light ticket should be dropped, it is time to take your argument to the court. There should be instructions on your red light ticket on how to request a hearing at your local traffic court. Like all traffic tickets, there will be a time limit on how long you have to schedule a hearing, so make sure that you deal with it in a timely manner or else you will be out of luck.

When you are in court, make sure you present yourself respectfully. Getting upset over your red light ticket in court will only ensure you end up with a guilty charge. In most circumstances, if you have a solid argument, supporting proof, and show the court due respect, your red light ticket will be dropped by the judge. 

States that Allow Red Light Cameras

You don’t have to worry about red light cameras in every state in the country. In fact, only 21 out of the 50 states (less than half) have laws permitting red light cameras, and most of the cameras are only in major cities. To see where cameras are in your state, take a look at a
map of traffic cameras

The 21 states that allow red light camera use are:

  • Alabama

  • Arizona

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Delaware

  • Georgia

  • Illinois

  • Iowa

  • Louisiana

  • Maryland

  • Missouri

  • New York

  • North Carolina

  • Ohio

  • Oregon

  • Pennsylvania

  • Rhode Island

  • Tennessee

  • Texas

  • Virginia

  • Washington

Texas is actually working on a removal plan for its red light cameras beginning in 2021, so soon there will only be 20 states with operating red light cameras. 

Out of these 21 states, only Arizona, California, and certain jurisdictions of Missouri clearly state that they add points to a driver’s record for a red light camera violation. 

This is good news, as it means a red light ticket in the remaining states should not have a permanent impact on your driving record and car insurance rates. 

What to Do if Convicted for a Red Light Ticket

If you are unable to overturn your ticket and you live in a state where a red light ticket affects your driving record and insurance rates, you are probably wondering what to do to lessen the financial impact. Because a ticket can raise your car insurance rates a few hundred dollars, a red light camera ticket can be a pricey mistake. 

The best advice we can give you if your insurer raises your rates is to shop around for free insurance quotes. After a ticket that increases your insurance, your rates will likely be higher for a few years, so switching may save you a significant amount over time. 

One insurer may penalize you less for a red light camera ticket than your current insurer. And a number of insurers also offer signup discounts, which can be helpful. 

When in Doubt, Drive Safely

If you can’t get your red light camera ticket overturned, don’t fret. In most states, a red light ticket won’t impact your driving record points or car insurance rates at all. In the few states it does, you may be able to find cheaper rates by shopping around for a new insurer. 

And some more good news is this eventually, red light cameras may even become obsolete, as photo enforcement has never survived public votes. Places all over the country are voting down red light cameras, and there is a good chance they will soon disappear altogether. 

Until that happens, stay aware when you’re behind the wheel. Make sure you drive safely and obey the laws of the road in order to avoid even the chance of getting caught by a red light ticket

Rachel Bodine is a car insurance expert who writes and researches for the insurance comparison site,