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How much is a red-light ticket in Ontario?

Urban driving comes with its own set of obstacles and risks that Ontario drivers need to navigate. City drivers must learn to safely travel through school zones, navigate next to bike lanes, safely coexist with pedestrians and steer their way through traffic calming zones in addition to avoiding receiving a red-light ticket.

With so many things to concentrate on, it’s not surprising that even the best driver occasionally makes a mistake and violates one of the traffic laws. One of the most common traffic infractions city drivers experience is accidentally driving through a red light.

But what happens when you run a red light in Ontario?  What are the fines for running a red-light ticket in Ontario? How does running a red light affect your insurance in Ontario? How long will the red-light ticket remain on your record? In this post, we will try to answer those questions and more.

 

What is a red-light ticket?

Red light tickets are issued when a vehicle crosses the stop line at an intersection after the traffic light has switched to red. If there is no stop line, the driver must stop before the crosswalk, if there is one, and if there isn’t they must stop before entering the intersection. They must remain stopped until the light turns to green. Note that there is no infraction if the vehicle crosses the stop line while the light is yellow.

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There are two types of red-light tickets in Ontario.

The first thing you need to understand when discussing red light tickets in Ontario is that there are two different ways for you to receive a ticket, and each has its own unique quirks. The traditional red-light ticket is written by an officer who sees you running a red light. Increasingly though, Ontarians are being caught by technology in the form, of a red-light camera.

Police issued red light tickets

Many drivers know that feeling when you see the flashing red lights of a police vehicle in your rear-view mirror that signal you are about to receive a traffic ticket: dread, anxiety, embarrassment. This is the traditional way you are issued a ticket for running a red light, by being caught by a police officer who physically witnessed you failing to stop for a red light.

When a police officer stops you for running a red light in Ontario, they are able to identify the driver of the vehicle. Therefore, it is that individual who bears the brunt of the punishment. In Ontario, driving through a red light will result in a fine and a conviction on your Ontario driving record. It will also result in the assignment of three demerit points to your driver’s license.

Red light camera tickets

Red light camera tickets are handled quite differently than in-person tickets. These red-light tickets are issued by robotic cameras that are located at various intersections that were identified by city staff as experiencing a higher-than-average number of red light infractions or accidents.

These cameras use sensors to identify vehicles that cross the intersection stop line after the light has turned red and snaps a series of photos of the vehicle and its license plate. Because it is not possible to identify the driver of the offending car, an infraction notice is then mailed to the owner of the vehicle, who is responsible for paying the ticket.

Red-light ticket: Traffic light with a camera mounted on it viewed from a downward angle.

How much will my insurance go up after a red-light camera ticket?

Depending whether your red-light ticket was issued by a police officer or was issued by a red-light camera, the impact on your insurance will be different.

If the ticket was issued by a red-light camera, there will be no impact on your insurance, as the infraction was charged to the vehicle and the driver is unknown.

However, if your red-light ticket was issued by a police officer, the infraction will appear on your Ontario driving record and could negatively impact your insurance premium. The amount of the average insurance premium increase for a single traffic ticket on your driving record can range from 0% to 10%.

One way to prevent an increase in rates should you be issued a red-light ticket by a police officer is to purchase optional “Conviction Protection” coverage as an add-on to your auto policy. Conviction Protection insurance forgives a minor traffic ticket so that you can keep your existing good driving credits and rates. This coverage was first introduced by one of aha insurance’s partners, Aviva Canada almost a decade ago, and is now provided by several insurance companies across Ontario.

Aerial shot of Toronto where you can see some streets with car dealerships.

What is the fine for running a red light in Toronto?

In Toronto, as in all of Ontario, a red-light ticket will set you back $325. This amount is the same whether it is charged against a driver by a police officer or if it is issued to a vehicle by a red-light camera.

 

How do you know if you get a red-light camera ticket?

Most people discover that they have been issued a red-light camera ticket when they receive a notice from their municipal courts in the mail. This notice often includes a photo of your license plate as the vehicle travelled through the intersection allowing you to confirm that the ticket is legitimate and was not issued to you in error.

 

Can I check my red-light ticket online?

If you want to confirm that your ticket is valid, or if you can’t remember whether you paid for the ticket, you could also look up your ticket online. To use this service, visit the Ontario Provincial Offenses Act online portal. There you can enter the infraction notice and the date of the infraction and see the status of the ticket immediately. Note that it can take up to ten days after the date of the infraction for the record to appear online.

A woman paying a red-light ticket and checking her driving record online with a laptop.

How do I pay for my red-light ticket?

While receiving a $325 red-light ticket in the mail or in-person may sting a bit, there are a number of fairly easy ways to pay the fine. While the ticket itself is issued on a province-wide basis as outlined in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, the administration of the tickets are handled at a municipal level. This means that how you pay for your ticket will depend on where it was issued.

Practically all municipalities will allow you to pay your ticket in a number of ways, including online with a credit card, by mailing a cheque or money order or in-person at a municipal office. Your ticket will outline your payment options and direct you to the appropriate address or website.

If you are not satisfied with the municipal options as outlined on your ticket, you can also use a third-party platform created by RBC and Terranet to centralize the payment of traffic tickets across the entire country. Simply visit www.paytickets.ca and enter the appropriate information.

 

Is it worth fighting a red-light camera ticket in Ontario?

Every Ontario Highway Traffic offence allows the driver or recipient to fight the ticket in court. In some cases, this may be relatively straightforward in the event of a substantive error made by the officer issuing the ticket, the administrators who processed the ticket or a failure by the technology used to capture and document red-light camera tickets. It is not unheard of for plate numbers to be read incorrectly or jumbled by the software, or for an officer to improperly complete key aspects of the ticket itself. These types of errors can often result in the cancellation of the ticket altogether.

Other successful defences might include questioning whether the camera equipment was operating correctly or whether an officer was situated in a position where he could clearly see that your car crossed the stop line after the light turned red.

If a mistake was not made on the issuance of the ticket, the decision to fight the ticket must be made in conjunction with other factors such as your possibility of success as weighed against substantial increases to your insurance premium or the possible suspension of your driver’s license, should you have several other infractions already on your driving record.

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What happens if I don’t pay a red-light ticket in Ontario

The Ontario government has made it quite difficult to ignore or avoid paying a traffic ticket.

If the ticket was issued by a red-light camera, the infraction notice will outline when the ticket is due. Failure to pay the ticket by that date will result in a conviction being automatically filed against you and a surcharge being added to the total amount due. Failure in paying this newly revised amount within the number of days outlined in the reminder notice will place you in default. By being in default, the province will not allow the owner of the vehicle to renew their license plate without paying the total fine amount and any surcharges applied.

If the ticket was issued by a police officer, the same process applies, however, if you fail to pay the infraction after a courtesy notice is sent, your driver’s license will be suspended. At that point, not only will you have to pay the fine in order to legally drive in Ontario, but a reinstatement fee will also be added to the balance due.

In both types of red-light tickets, the municipality may also impose a garnishment on your salary, freeze your bank accounts or even have your property seized and sold to pay off the outstanding amount.

 

How long does a red-light ticket stay on your record in Ontario?

Unlike red-light camera tickets, all provincial traffic convictions (issued in-person, by a police officer) remain on your driving record for a period of three years following conviction.

Red light tickets in Ontario are not something anyone wants to experience. They are costly and could affect your insurance premium. As always, driving safely is the best way to avoid any type of traffic ticket.

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