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Running a Red Light, Stop Sign & Auto Insurance

Ashley Kane

It’s a split second decision. The traffic signal a block or two ahead changes to yellow—you either hit the brakes to slow down or you speed up.

Approximately, 63 people die each month in the United States due to red light running crashes. Running a red light or failing to stop at a traffic sign is a dangerous and completely avoidable offense. There are rules on the road for a reason and disregarding them puts you and all other drivers at risk.

As a result, the fines and penalties for these traffic violations can be costly. Getting to your destination in a little less time is not worth a life and certainly not worth the hassle of dealing with an expensive fine and car insurance penalties. Take a look at these fines, penalties and consequences, and think twice the next time you see a yellow light.

These two offenses are typically grouped together as a ‘failure to stop’ violation, but not always. In some states, running a red light is seen as a more severe offense and may have more costly penalties.

Most Expensive Fines for Running a Red Light or Stop Sign

Did you know that there are 32 vehicle-to-vehicle conflict points in a standard four-way intersection? That’s a lot of possible collisions when a car runs a red light or when a driver fails to stop. That’s why the following fines aren’t cheap.

  1. Nevada: up to $1,000. The maximum fine for running a red light or speeding is $1,000 in Nevada. The fine will differ county to county and is likely to be significantly lower, but that is the state fine.
  2. California: $480. The base fine is actually $100 but with all the other fees tacked on, the total cost rises significantly.
  3. In New Orleans, Louisiana, the fine is $297.50 for running a red light. The fine for failing to stop at a stop sign is a little lower at $222.50.
  4. Oregon: $260. Running a red light in Oregon could hit you with a $260 fine and up to $520 if it occurs in a work, school or safety zone.
  5. In Houston,  the fine window could be up to $235 and that’s if the incident occurred without causing any accidents.

Red Light Cameras:

Many states have now installed red light cameras, which can make it easier for authorities to issue these fines. Currently, 24 states currently operate red light cameras. The automated enforcement technology takes photos of vehicles that fail to stop at traffic signals and then issues them a citation.

The cameras operate by taking photos or video of cars running red lights while failing to stop. Remember, a yellow light is the signal to clear an intersection, not a time to speed up through it and even for right turns on red, drivers must come to a full stop before turning.

The Effects of Running a Red Light or Stop Sign on Auto Insurance:

Here’s what could happen to your auto insurance after running a red light. Every auto insurer is different, so depending on your carrier, your rate increase may vary. In some cases, a single red light ticket may raise your premium, whereas for others, the rate may not rise significantly unless there is a repeat offense.

If the driver’s failure to stop led to further offenses, such as reckless driving or speeding, then your car insurance rate may rise more. Furthermore, if an accident occurred as a result, you can expect steeper consequences.  

Depending on whether or not your state has a points system, you may face more expensive car insurance rates. For example, in the state of Utah, a red light offense will put 50 points on your driving record. If you receive more than 200 points in a 3-year period, your driver’s license may be suspended. A suspended license can lead to more expensive car insurance, as car insurance providers may see you as a riskier driver.

How to Bring Your Car Insurance Rate Back Down:

Fight it. Were there any witnesses? Do you have evidence? You may be able to fight a red light traffic violation in court if you have a case. Perhaps, the glaring sun blocked your view of a traffic light or you believe the officer was at an angle that did not offer a clear view. You may fight a ticket in court on your own or hire a lawyer. Keep in mind that court-related fees can be costly.

Wait it out. Traffic violations never disappear from your record. That said, auto insurance providers typically only look at your last 5 years of driving history to determine your risk profile, unless there is a major infraction. Waiting a few years may help your rates decrease, and it could also help reduce your points in a points system state.

Take a defensive driving or driver improvement course. Several states will allow you to take an approved defensive driving course in order to get rid of points. Driver improvement courses are usually affordable and worth taking for those who have received traffic violations. If you reside in a points system state, most programs will knock off some points from your record upon successful completion of the class. For example, in Georgia, 7 points may be cleared once every 5 years for taking an approved course. This could help you save on your insurance, especially if the point increase suspended your license. Defensive driving courses can also lead to car insurance discounts.

Shop around. Still unhappy with your rate? Compare auto insurance quotes from different auto insurers. Not all carriers are the same and not all of them will determine your risk level in the same way. Check with different providers to find the best coverage for you.

Running a red light is unnecessary and dangerous behind the wheel. Follow the rules of the road and be a safe driver so you don’t have to deal with the fines, penalties or costly car insurance rates.