Rental Cars, Parking Tickets, Speeding Tickets and Red Light Cameras

What Happens When You Get a Ticket in Your Rental Car?

Speed Camera in Paris, France
••• Speed Camera in Paris, France. Roger Rozencwajg / Getty Images

In this age of speed cameras and red light cameras, it is only a matter of time before parking and moving violations catch up with car rental customers.

Consider these scenarios:

You plan a trip to Washington, DC, but decide to stay at a hotel in a Maryland suburb. You drive your rental car into downtown Washington via New York Avenue. Shortly after your trip, a company called American Traffic Solutions charges your credit card for a red light violation and adds on an administrative fee.

Several weeks after your vacation in France, your rental car company sends you a letter that says you have received a speeding ticket. One of France's many speed cameras captured an image of your rental car exceeding the speed limit while you were in possession of the car. The letter explains your requirement to pay the ticket when it arrives and documents the rental car company's charge to your credit card for administrative fees,which cover the cost of providing your name, address and other information to the ticketing authority.

You travel to Italy, rent a car and drive to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower. While looking for a place to park, you accidentally pull into a parking lot reserved for municipal vehicles. Realizing your mistake, you leave immediately, without stopping or parking in the lot. Months after your trip, your rental car company sends you a notice of a parking violation and a hefty fine from the city of Pisa.

To add insult to injury, the rental car company charges an administrative fee to your credit card because they provided your contact information to city officials.

To Pay, or Not to Pay?

If you get a ticket in another part of the world, you may be tempted to toss it into the trash. Remember that states often share motor vehicle information with each other and with insurance companies, and that your rental car company has given your personal data to the ticketing authority or its authorized collection company.

Think carefully before deciding to ignore the ticket. You may be setting yourself up for a series of annoying letters and telephone calls.

Parking Tickets

Cities around the world restrict parking in certain areas and charge for parking in others. If you know you have violated parking regulations, you should pay your parking fine. This is especially true if you parked illegally while driving a rental car and are able to pay the fine right away. If you do not pay the parking fine promptly, your rental car company is likely to track you down, charge you for administrative costs and provide your personal information to the city that issued your parking ticket. Eventually, you will either receive a notice of violation, which you should pay, or a charge to your credit card from a third party fine collection service.

Should You Fight a Parking Ticket Issued in Error?

If you receive a parking ticket in error, can prove your case and have sufficient command of the local language, you may wish to fight the ticket while you are still in country. Bring your evidence to the parking authority and do your best to fill out any forms you are given. If you are writing in a foreign language, consult a dictionary to make sure you are filling in each field properly.

Be confident, show your documentation and insist on a quick decision.

Once you have returned home, the cost of fighting a parking ticket might be higher than the parking fine itself. Consider how much time and energy you will expend fighting the parking fine, weigh the cost of your time against the fine and administrative fee amounts and decide whether to pay or fight.

Speeding Tickets and Speed Cameras

Speed cameras allow cities and counties to fine motorists for speeding based upon photographic evidence alone. If you receive a speeding citation in error, you will need to prove that you were somewhere else on that day and time in order to avoid the fine.

In the United States, some rental car companies have partnered with American Traffic Solutions, a firm that installs red light and speed cameras and collects fines from traffic law and toll violators.

When you sign your rental agreement with one of those companies, you agree that your credit card information may be provided to American Traffic Solutions for collection purposes. You may discover that American Traffic Solutions has billed you for a speeding violation before you receive official notification of a speeding ticket or red light violation. American Traffic Solutions works with collection agencies, so you should consider paying your fine right away if you know you broke the law. Otherwise, you may be subjecting yourself to phone calls, letters and other collection agency tactics, and you will end up paying your fine anyway.

Red Light Cameras

Many cities have installed red light cameras at key intersections. These cameras are triggered by movement and record at least two images of violators' vehicles. In some cities, red light cameras also record short videos of each violator. If you receive notice that you have run a red light, but have evidence to the contrary, you can dispute the allegation in writing.

If you were driving a rental car when the violation supposedly occurred, you will receive a violation notice from your rental car company. This notice will include information about administrative charges billed by the rental car company to your credit card.

Your best options for disputing red light camera tickets include documenting your presence elsewhere and / or proving that you were not driving the car when the violation occurred (Tip: You will have to review the official photographs and provide evidence documenting your whereabouts to prove this claim ).

If you live far from the place where the red light violation supposedly took place, you will need to weigh the costs and benefits of disputing the charges.