Road Traffic Offences

No Excuses For Red Light Runners

TGB Criminal Lawyer Richard Yates says if you’ve been fined for driving through a red light and think you have an excuse, you probably don’t.

TGB Criminal Lawyer Richard Yates says if you’ve been fined for driving through a red light and think you have an excuse, you probably don’t.


Many South Australians would be surprised that in the eyes of the law there is no acceptable reason for you to drive your motor vehicle through a red light.

As a local pensioner found out, even crossing the line to make way for an emergency vehicle isn’t a good enough excuse.

While this appears to be a very hard line approach, the theory behind it is that a person who is not trained to run a red light and negotiate an intersection should not be allowed to do it, irrespective of the circumstances. It’s simply too dangerous.

In Jordan V Police (2006), Mr Jordan challenged his fine on the basis that the photographs of his vehicle taken by a red light camera didn’t show him crossing the intersection line. He argued that the Police couldn’t prove that he had run the red light.

At Court, the Police called an expert who was involved in the installation of the cameras, who gave evidence that sensors underneath the road are activated 0.5 seconds after the lights turn red. If the sensors detect a vehicle travelling through the red light, and the vehicle is moving at a speed of at least 20km per hour, the camera is then triggered. Two photographs are taken, between half and one second apart.

When a person receives the photographs, it will include the times they were taken after the lights turned red. Because of the time difference and the varying speed of vehicles, the photos usually won’t show the driver on the wrong side of the line, particularly if they are driving fast. This is where there can be confusion, because some drivers receive two photos and both show the vehicle in the intersection. They then dispute the fine, misunderstanding that the photos are delayed.

It is fairly easy for South Australia Police to work out a driver’s speed from the two photographs because the Police know the dimensions of the intersections. So if the vehicle in one position in the first picture and further through the intersection in the second picture, the speed can be calculated. And because acceleration and deceleration does not occur instantaneously, chances are the driver was travelling at the same or very similar speed in the second before the photo was taken. Through these calculations the Police can pinpoint the position of the vehicle at the time the light went red and prove the offence, even if the photos appear to be inconclusive.  In the case of Jordan V Police, Mr Jordan still had to pay his fine with the added court costs on top.

While challenging a red light camera fine is extremely difficult, I would still encourage drivers to request photographs of the incident. You need to be sure that it was in fact your car with you driving, and not someone else using your number plates (for example).

Some people find themselves in a situation where they are low on demerit points and the red light offence may seem them lose their license. In this circumstance, you may wish to seek legal advice.

Author: Richard Yates

For advice about traffic offences and similar legal issues, contact Richard on (08) 8212 1077.