The five emotional stages we go through when we get a red light camera ticket

Red light cameras routinely top the list of Things We Hate (also on that list: slow drivers in the left lane and people who try to sneak through the express line at Publix with more than 10 items).

There’s been a lot of controversy with these cameras. The City of Miami has voted to drop them. The Florida Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments about them.

But still, in many cities around South Florida – like Coral Gables, Aventura and Pembroke Pines, among others- the red light cameras whir on, and the tickets roll in.

Finding that official white envelope in the mail causes pulses to thump like an Ultra bass line and a seismic mindshift from reasonable happiness to utter dread. At a time when snail mail is restricted to pleas from magazines you subscribed to 10 years ago and license tag renewals, seeing the words “traffic violation” on an envelope sparks a special sort of apprehension – and a series of complex emotions.

Read more: Miami isn’t the most traffic-congested city in the world – but it’s close

Read more: The worst traffic nightmares of Miami

Here are the five stages of getting a red light camera ticket in South Florida.


The words “traffic violation” burn a hole in your retina first, then in your heart. How much is this going to cost? Can you still meet everyone for brunch this weekend? Will The Ticket Clinic take your calls?


The terror gives way to a slow, deep burn of fury. Seriously, a machine is assessing your driving ability? It’s not even a real person! How is this fair? How is this constitutional? Why don’t they spend their time catching real criminals, like the person who left beer cans all over your front lawn?


I did not run that red light. I stopped at that red light. And it was a full stop, brakes engaged and everything. Also, the check is in the mail.


There is no bargaining with a red light camera. It is a cold, soulless hunk of steel and apathy, judging you and your puny human weakness for getting to work on time.


You finally break down. You log on and watch the video of yourself rolling through that right turn on red, that distinct lack of stopping as required. You’re beaten. You can’t fight it. You dig out the credit card and vow never again. Till next time.

Fine. Next time I’ll behave.
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