Thousands of tickets are automatically sent every year to Texans who run red lights — or turn right too quickly on them.
Some Texans pay the $75 citation; others don’t pay at all — and without a penalty.
So should you pay your red-light ticket? Consider these facts:
▪ Tickets for running red lights are a civil violations, not criminal.
▪ That means they don’t show up on driving records or impact insurance rates.
▪ And these unpaid tickets can’t be reported to a credit bureau, so they don’t impact credit records.
Be careful in Dallas
However, some Texas counties — such as Dallas — flag motorists with unpaid red-light tickets and block their vehicle registrations until the fines are paid.
That is not the case in Tarrant County, where the tax assessor collector has issued a letter stating that “Tarrant County does not block vehicle registration for unpaid light camera fines.”
“The penalty is a civil penalty and not a criminal penalty,” Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright has written. “It is up to the Tax Assessor-Collector in each county if vehicle registrations are blocked because of these fines. I have chosen not to block them.”
That status could change with a new tax assessor collector. And Tarrant County will have a new one after the election next year, since Wright has resigned to run for Congress.
Bring on the late fees
A word of warning: any tickets left unpaid will trigger reminder notices — and notices that a $25 late fee will be added to the bill.
But a lot of drivers choose not to pay these tickets.
In Fort Worth, for instance, 231,319 red light camera tickets were issued during the last fiscal year. More than half, 124,477, were sent to collections because they were unpaid, city records show.
“There is a debt that is created,” said Ryan Turner, general counsel and director of education for the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center. “It may result in the matter being turned over to a collection agency. ... But it may not be reported to a credit bureau. And it will not go on a criminal record because it’s not a criminal matter.”
The collection game
Here’s a look at the number of tickets turned over from some Tarrant County cities to collection agencies, according to a Star-Telegram review of red-light camera data.
Fort Worth — 531,960 tickets between 2012 and 2016.
Richland Hills — 3,147 tickets between 2010 and August 2017.
Southlake — 30,216 tickets between September 2008 and May 2017.
Haltom City — 6,868 tickets between 2009 and 2016.
North Richland Hills — 8,930 tickets between 2010 and 2016 for non payment.
Bedford — 5,607 tickets between 2010 and 2016.
Money collected pays camera vendors and funds safety initiatives in cities that have the cameras. The state’s portion is earmarked for trauma and EMS facilities statewide.