What is the Penalty for driving through a red light?

The minimum penalty for running a red light is 3 points and a £100 fine (the points will remain on the driver’s licence for four years). Prosecution may occur where any part of a motor vehicle crosses the white line at a red traffic light. Increased penalties may be imposed to reflect more severe offences.

Running a Red Light – What Happens Next?

Where the offence is detected by fixed camera, a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) will be served on the registered keeper’s address by post within 14 days together with a requirement for the identity of the driver under s172 Road Traffic Act 1988. The keeper of the vehicle is then required to identify the driver of the vehicle. After a signed admission is received from the driver, a conditional offer of a fixed penalty (COFP) of 3 points and a £100.00 fine may be offered which if accepted will avoid the need for Court proceedings.

If the driver is seen committing the offence by a police officer a verbal NIP will normally be administered, dispensing the need for one to be issued by post. The police do not now issue fixed penalty notices at the roadside, cases are always referred to the prosecution unit to decide what action may be taken. If a fixed penalty is offered it will normally follow by post within 28 days.

Fixed penalties are normally offered but may not be if the offence is considered too serious, for example if the light had been red for a considerable period of time before the offence was committed

What is important to remember is that contravening a traffic signal is an offence of strict liability. This means that the courts will not entertain a defence based on testimony that the defendant did not intend to break the law (strict liability deals only in facts, not intentions). The Court has no discretion not to impose points simply because there was no intention to commit an offence.

Challenge a Red Light Offence

A not guilty plea may be entered to a red light offence after a charge and Court papers have been issued..

Defences against a charge for running a red light include:

  • Notice of Intended Prosecution not served on the registered keeper within 14 days
  • Court papers not issued within 6 months of the offence
  • Whether the lights were properly authorised by the local authority (most commonly applicable in the case of temporary lights)
  • Continuity issues relating to photographic evidence
  • A challenge to the the reliability of evidence given by police officers
  • Going through an amber light where stopping would cause an increased risk of there being an accident

Cameras Explained – Caught Running a Red Light

Red light offences may be detected by rear-facing Gatso speed cameras (associated with the white lines that are painted on the road surface leading away from the camera), and the forward facing Truvelo speed cameras (which are also yellow). These types of cameras may detect both speeding and red light offences, simultaneously if necessary. Sensors embedded within the road leading away from the camera become activated when the light shows red. The sensors relay the presence of any vehicle to the camera, which takes a picture of the rear number plate.

The black box cameras on top of traffic lights are not there to detect offences but to measure traffic flow so that the lights are activated at the correct intervals.

Advanced Stop Lines – Entering the ‘Bike Box’

Advanced Stop Lines (ASL) form the entrance boundary of a ‘bike box’ at traffic lights. Vehicles (including motorcycles) are permitted to enter and leave the bike box only when a green light shows and the road is clear – no motorised vehicle is permitted to stop in the bike box at any time. The penalties in place for running a red light also come into force where any part of a motorised vehicle encroaches into the bike box when the traffic light is not showing green.

A successful prosecution is typically brought on evidence that a driver has avoidably entered the bike box at a red light. This could mean that the driver advanced into the box from a stationary position or that the driver failed to stop the car in time despite a demonstrable safe stopping distance. Where a defendant faces charges of running a red light due to unlawfully entering or stopping in a bike box, a defence may be mounted if the defendant can prove that the vehicle entered the bike box while the traffic light was showing green, but was then prevented from leaving the box due to the presence of traffic (or any other another obstacle) in the road ahead.