We all know it’s illegal to run red lights. We also have probably all run red lights legally. So how can you know if it’s legal or illegal? How much does a ticket cost? When it comes to demerits in Virginia, how many points for running a red light?
What counts as running a red light?
It is illegal to drive through an intersection when the light for your direction is solid red. (There are some exceptions, but we’ll go over those later.) The text of the law states, “Steady red indicates that moving traffic shall stop and remain stopped as long as the red signal is shown, except in the direction indicated by a steady green arrow.” For the whole law about traffic lights, see the relevant section in the Virginia code.
Note that red lights can be red circles or red arrows. Either way, they mean the same thing. If it is a flashing light, it should be treated as a stop sign and is subject to all stop sign laws.
What happens if you run a red light?
If a police officer catches you running a red light, you will be subject to a fine and demerit points on your driving record.
- How much is a ticket for running a red light? The fine is up to $350, but usually around $100.
- How many demerit points for running a red light? The penalty is 4 points for a moving violation and will stay on your Virginia DMV record for 3 years.
If you cooperate with the officer who pulls you over, that is all that will happen. If you argue, resist, or have multiple simultaneous violations, the penalties could be higher.
If a traffic camera catches you running a red light, you will only be subject to a fine and not demerit points on your record. The maximum fine in this instance is $50.
If you have any questions about a ticket that you have received, or believe you have been wrongfully ticketed, Cook Attorneys can help.
Are traffic cameras legal?
In Virginia, traffic cameras are permitted if they are clearly marked. As of 2023, eleven counties in Virginia use them, and that number is expected to rise. Harrisonburg and Rockingham County do not yet employ cameras to regulate traffic.
Tickets issued due to traffic cameras are considered civil violations, and they do not affect your driving record, criminal record, or insurance rates. Many cities or counties institute them because they have a proven record of decreasing accidents and fatalities due to red light violations.
How can I tell if a red light ticket is real?
If a police officer pulls you over, you are free to request his or her identification. The ticket issued will also have the county information on it and a phone number and/or web address to verify your ticket information.
If you receive a ticket from a traffic camera, it will be mailed to the address on the DMV record for the owner of the vehicle, and it will have valid information on it for paying and/or contesting the fine. You will never get a ticket from Virginia via phone or email.
If you need help determining the validity of the ticket, Cook Attorneys is happy to help.
What are the exceptions for running a red light?
The Commonwealth of Virginia allows exceptions to the red light rule. Here are a few of them:
- You have come to a full and complete stop and are safely turning right.
- You have come to a full and complete stop and are turning safely from a one-way street onto another one-way street (even if that means you are turning left).
- You are part of a marked funeral procession or a parade.
- A police officer directs you otherwise.
- It is the safest option available to you and/or you were avoiding greater harm.
Do I need a lawyer for a red light ticket?
Many drivers end up prepaying red light tickets, but there are instances when you might want to challenge it. These instances may include:
- One of the exceptions above applies.
- You were ticketed for several moving violations at one time, and you are trying to reduce the accumulated penalties.
- You do not believe that you actually ran a red light.
If you believe you have been wrongfully fined or ticketed, Cook Attorneys can help. Contact us today to set up a free consultation. Our experienced traffic lawyers in Virginia want to help you understand your options and take the path that is right for you.