Just as it is in all states, Texas drivers who run a red light or make a turn on red where the law does not permit it will get a ticket. But the state does allow drivers to make a right turn on a red light provided they come to a full stop before doing so. Drivers who get a ticket have options, but they should avoid unlawfully turning on a red light as it can result in fines and demerit points on their record. If they do get a ticket, they can fight it in court and win if they can prove they were not at fault.
Red Light Laws in the State of Texas
A red light has the same meaning as a stop sign – drivers must come to a complete stop. When a Texas driver approaches a stop sign or a red signal, whether solid or flashing, they must stop before turning or entering a crosswalk or intersection. Unless a sign or law explicitly restricts it, drivers can then make a right on red. However, they must use caution when making the turn and follow standard right-of-way rules.
Some states don't allow drivers to turn left on red, but Texas does in some areas. Drivers can make a left turn at a red light if the intersection connects two one-way streets. This means they can make a left turn on red if they are on a one-way street and turning onto a one-way street, but they have to come to a full stop before making the turn. Texas law also allows drivers to enter an intersection on a yellow light – which indicates the traffic signal is about to turn red – but they should be cautious when doing so.
Traffic Light Violations and Points
A motorist who runs a red light or makes a turn on red where the law forbids it will get a ticket. The fine depends on the circumstances of the traffic stop, including where in the state they received it. Fines for running a red light or stop sign range from $150 to $275 in Texas. A conviction usually adds two demerit points to a driver's record and stays there for about three years.
A driver who gets too many points may have to pay surcharges as well as the fine for the violation. However, some drivers can avoid points on their record by completing a defensive driving course. A stop light violation can also lead to other charges. Depending on the circumstances, a driver can receive a reckless driving conviction or, if they cause someone's death, may face manslaughter or vehicular homicide charges.
Red Light Cameras in Texas
In 2019, Governor Greg Abbott decided to do away with red-light cameras all over the state. Most cities followed suit. However, some do still have them due to a grandfather clause in the state law, which allows municipalities to finish their current contracts with camera companies.
Only four cities in Texas still have red-light cameras: Balcones Heights, Humble, Leon Valley (in Bexar County) and Amarillo. A person who gets a red light ticket will pay $75 for the infraction. Failure to respond to the ticket, attend a hearing, or pay the penalty can result in the driver being reported to a collection agency by the state.
Consequences of Ignoring a Red Light Ticket
Avoiding a red light ticket and not paying the fine may lead to the driver's arrest. Those who can't pay their ticket have options in performing community service or adhering to a monthly payment plan. If a driver goes to collections for not paying a ticket, the agency forwards their information to the Texas DMV, which may issue a hold on a driver's license preventing them from renewing it until they pay off monies owed on the ticket.
Drivers can avoid arrest and jail time for unpaid tickets by:
- Showing up on their court date even if they can't pay the ticket because failure to appear results in more fines and an arrest warrant. When in court, the driver should bring financial documents to show their income. This can include W-2s; pay stubs and public benefit documents from WIC, Social Security, TANF, and Medicaid/CHIP. They should also show expenses for mortgage, rent, utility bills and child care.
- Asking the court for a waiver of part or all of the ticket penalty if the driver cannot pay it. The driver should let the court know what they can pay (if anything) and ask for a payment plan.
When considering community service, the driver should make sure they have the time to do it and consider their childcare situation and transportation options before requesting it. They should ask for community service only if they know for sure that they can attend and complete it. Failure to do so could also lead to a driver's arrest.
Fighting a Red Light Ticket in Texas
A driver who wishes to contest a red light ticket can do so if they wish, but they will likely face off with the police officer who issued the ticket in court. It will be necessary to prove that they did nothing wrong during the traffic stop.
If they can prove that they did not run a red light or make an illegal turn, the court may dismiss the ticket. However, traffic fines cost relatively little to pay. Fighting the ticket in court may cost more than the ticket itself.
- Texas Appleseed: Avoiding Jail Time for Traffic Tickets & Low-Level Violations
- Driving Laws (NOLO): Dealing With a Traffic Ticket
- KXAN: List of Texas Cities Stopping Red Light Camera Enforcement, Including Austin
- Texas Legislature: Title 7. Vehicles and Traffic Subtitle I. Enforcement of Traffic Laws Chapter 707 Photographic Traffic Signal
- Driving Laws (NOLO): Red Light and Stop Sign Tickets in Texas
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.