Traffic Light Offences

Most traffic light offences are now based on photographic evidence. As with speeding, you will receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution, which invariably will lead to a Fixed Penalty Notice of 3 points and £100 fine. However, there are defences available and we can give you the right advice. If we feel that you have reasonable prospects of success, we can arrange representation, if required. Motor Lawyers will give an honest appraisal of your case and if we believe that you would be best off pleading guilty, then we will advise you to do so. We aim to be realistic and will not recommend defending a case without reasonable grounds, as to do so could result in you incurring a higher fine.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the rules regarding traffic lights?

The obligation on the motorist is to stop, unless the light is green, in which case you may proceed only if it is clear and safe to do so. If the amber light is illuminated, a vehicle must stop, unless it has already passed the white stop line or the vehicle is so close to the stop line, that coming to a halt might cause an accident. If the red light is showing, then you must stop behind the stop line in all circumstances.

What is the penalty for failing to comply with a red traffic signal?

Regardless of whether the matter is dealt with by Fixed Penalty or at Court, the punishment is 3 penalty points and a fine. Currently, the fine on a Fixed Penalty is £100, at Court it is means tested but limited to £1,000.

I was in a queue of stop / start traffic. The lights changed as I was on the line. Have I committed an offence?

If you stop immediately, you have not committed an offence regardless of the fact that part of the vehicle is past the stop line. An offence is committed if you attempt to proceed further when the light is red. The rules are, the offence is committed if you do not come to an immediate halt.

I have received a Notice of Intended Prosecution for failing to comply with a red traffic light. I genuinely don't think I went through a red light, what next?

You will still have to respond to the Notice by identifying yourself as the driver etc., as failure to do so is a separate offence. If you wish to dispute the allegation, you can request a Court hearing but it would be prudent to ask for the evidence to be disclosed, and although there is no obligation upon the Process Unit to supply same in advance of a Court hearing, most will normally do so. Replying to the notice does not mean that you accept that you are guilty of the offence alleged.

The lights changed as I approached and I came to a halt with the front wheels on the line. Why am I being prosecuted?

The offence is committed if "any part" of the vehicle crosses the stop line when the red light is showing.

To stop at the traffic lights would have caused an accident, the driver behind me was driving too close so I decided to drive through. Do I have a defence?

If the light was red, it is not a defence. There are no circumstances for passing the stop line when the lights are red.

I did brake upon seeing the lights turning red, but due to wet weather conditions, I skidded so unfortunately passed the white line. Can I argue that this was beyond my control and thus provides me with a technical defence or mitigation?

No. Your obligation is to drive at a speed at which you are able to come to a halt promptly, if required. The Court will conclude that you had not taken into account the poor weather conditions, and the offence has therefore been committed. Indeed, there is a risk that the allegation could become driving without due care and attention, which carries a higher penalty.

I went through on amber. There was a Police Officer who stopped me and has alleged I went through on red, so it is my word against his. Can I fight the allegation?

You can dispute the allegation, but the mere fact that the lights were not red, does not provide you with a defence. If you crossed on amber, you have still committed the offence, unless you can show that it was unsafe to stop. If the Police Officer can convince the Court that there was no reason why you should not have been able to stop on amber, you could be convicted. The fact that it is his word against yours does not prevent a prosecution, although clearly, the outcome will depend heavily on each party's version of events/credibility.

I had stopped but I then went through the red light to allow an emergency vehicle pass me. Is this a defence?

In theory, the offence has still been committed but it is most unlikely that a prosecution or endorsement would arise, as there are clear grounds for "special reasons" as to why no penalty should be imposed.

It is alleged that I drove through temporary traffic lights. There was no stop line on the road, so how can I have committed an offence?

When the offence arises at temporary lights, in addition to the lights themselves, there should be a sign stating "When red light shows wait here". The position of that sign is regarded as the "stop line" and the offence is committed if you pass that point.

The stop line was worn out, how can I be prosecuted if there was no line to stop behind?

The stop line should be visible on the road immediately adjacent to the signals themselves. If the stop line is not visible, then a motorist should stop in line with the primary signals. To pass the red light is still an offence, regardless of whether the stop line is fully visible.

The traffic lights had malfunctioned, I waited on red for at least 5 minutes before I decided to move off. Immediately, I was stopped by a Police Officer who accused me of failing to comply with a traffic signal. Will I win my case?

If the lights are not working properly, the potential defence is that they do not comply with the appropriate regulations and thus, you should not be prosecuted. However, it would be for the Defendant to establish that "to proceed with caution" was a reasonable action and that it was apparent that the lights were not working properly.

My incident occurred on cross–roads, I was on the major road and the Police were on the minor road. They could not have possibly seen my traffic lights, yet allege that I want through on red. How can they prove the case if they cannot see my lights?

In such circumstances, the Court can conclude that unless there is evidence to the contrary, lights for east west traffic must be red, if lights for north south traffic are green and vice versa. The Police can therefore prosecute on the basis that if they could see green lights, it is safe to assume that your lights could not have been green, unless you can produce evidence to the contrary.

I drive an articulated vehicle. Quite often, when I approach the lights they are green, but by the time by vehicle is through, they have changed to red. There is nothing I can do because of the length of the vehicle. Why should I be prosecuted?

If the red light is not showing when the front of the vehicle crosses the line, but is illuminated before the rest of the vehicle has passed, an offence is committed. The rules state that it is your obligation as a driver to ensure that the whole of the vehicle can pass on green. If it cannot, you should not proceed.