By on March 5, 2009

For the last 20 years or so, I’ve been fighting traffic tickets in the New York area. My business is not “normal.” No matter how easy I make the process, no matter what the outcome, half of my final client conversations contain the words “I hope I never see you again.” (It’s OK, I understand. You came in with a “gun to your head.”) While the client kiss-off never changes, my ticket defense work fluctuates with the level of traffic enforcement. Weather, gas prices and terrorism alerts (post-9/11) all impact the number of tickets issued. I’ve survived a few up and down cycles. And with a steady client base and wide professional contacts I can draw a few conclusions. The recession is here. Government budgets are under threat. The word has gone out: write tickets!

Most people know that highway speed limits are set 10 to 15 mph below design speed (i.e., limits that would be set by traffic engineering surveys). That means pretty much everyone is speeding—in a strictly legal sense. But not from a safety perspective. Going with the flow or five mph faster is the safest way to drive; and yet the flow is usually “illegal.”

Debate that as you will, but the police allow some leeway. Most 55 mph roads are “stay under 70.” Most 65 mph roads are “stay under 80.” In New York City, rare is the speeding ticket under 70 mph in a 50 mph zone (rare, not nonexistent, so don’t go 70 and blame me later). It’s also worth noting that most ticket writing involves random selection from a pack of traffic. (This is where the silver Accord beats the red Corvette.)

The “system” is set up with a level of enforcement such that a normal, sane and flow-following driver will still catch a ticket every two to five years. From the government’s point of view, this is the ideal “threshold of pain.” The speed limit remains “the law.” Police can give “courtesy” or “use discretion,” which garners significant goodwill. The normal driver gets a ticket often enough to remind him or her to pay attention, but not so much as to take them off the road. Cash is extracted. Insurance company surcharges. Next customer please.

In New York, a very typical 77/55 is a six point ticket. The motorist pays approximately $250 to the Court. They’re taxed a second time by our “Driver Responsibility Assessment.” That’ll be $300. Each ticket is a $500 + nut. An industrious cop can write 20 per shift. Surcharges and other “fees” are attached, limited only by the inventiveness of the State Legislature at midnight. The public never notices till THEY are caught in the net.

Cops know how much traffic tickets make. So when police have a contract issue, or when overtime is cut, the radar guns are quietly turned off. Most police have a variety of tasks they can do on duty, so this is hard to trace. The power of the “off switch” has been a quiet factor in many police contract actions. When tickets (revenues) drop, the money requested by the police union suddenly becomes more reasonable. We saw this recently in New York State.

Those most likely to make an effective political stink to change the low speed limits are the same sort of person who’d go to Court (or retain Counsel) and fight the ticket. Once their ticket is taken care of, they stop caring and the whole incident falls in the Hole of Denial, never to be thought of again.

Letters to Congressmen and the Editor of the local paper are forgotten about in the wash of the reduction from six to three points—and that is the REAL reason you get a break if you fight the Ticket. The “deal” is essential to defusing organized resistance to the “system.” Arizona is learning this with the speed cameras. No deal = political resistance.

The recession has made a few changes, even with the uptick in volume. Tickets are coming to my office later, or only after the Court Clerk has refused the client’s third postponement attempt. They forget somehow to tell me this. More clients are price shopping.

Often, after doing one ticket, the client admits they have . . . two others. One of which is late. Denial again! Ticket fighting is a recession-resistant business, but not recession-proof. Lack of money, real or felt, is hitting all levels of society. Never mind the fact that a client was ticketed while driving the Range Rover up to the ski house. My pre-contractual client conversations are more strained than they were a year ago.

Courthouses are more full than last year, reflecting the overall increase in tickets issued. The word is out.  Watch the medians, and watch your wallet. A hungry Government is very, very dangerous.

[Casey Raskob can contacted via Speedlaw.net]

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55 Comments on “Editorial: The Truth About Speeding Tickets and the Recession...”


  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    I remember driving from DC to Virginia Beach in 1999-2000 going 90 the whole way because the state was flush with tech boom money. Never even saw a cop in multiple trips.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    I have been driving 17 years and have never received a moving violation & I own a sports car & sports bike. I did have some close calls (moreso on the bike), but in general the cops don’t see seem too interested in people keeping up with the flow of traffic.

    I was going 65 in a 55 to work at 6:15 am with light traffic. I _was_ passing people while I was in the left lane. A guy started tailgating me…I moved to the right almost immediately & he followed me. I then moved to the far right lane & again he followed me.

    What I didn’t realize in the left lane, I realized in the right lane — the wing on my STi was cutting off the not-yet-blinking cruiser lights behind me of an Illinois state police car. In the right lane I slowly eased down from 65mph to 55mph and stuck the car on cruise control. About a minute or two later, the state police car passed me on the left and hit probably 80-85 before deciding that was a good cruising speed.

    I think when he tailgated me in the left lane he wanted me to tear out to get ahead of him so he could ticket me & I didn’t take the bait.

  • avatar
    qfrog

    To Tax & Collect: You/from you
    To Serve & Protect: The system

  • avatar
    GeeDashOff

    These are the kind of stories I come to TTAC to read, good jobs guys, and well written to boot.

    Back on topic: I find you’re much less likely to get a ticket if you’re in the middle or right lanes as opposed to the fast lane, even if you’re doing the same speed.

  • avatar
    DaPope

    Yup. I’m one of the latest suckers in Dallas – along a stretch of the Northwest “Highway” the speed limit was recently dropped to just 35, apparently. Heading in to work early (the only time to beat traffic AND get decent mileage) last week I got nailed, going with moderate traffic, at 51 mph. He could have picked the white Lexus LS400 next to me or my dirty pickup – guess I need to wash that thing more frequently. Crappy loss of $250.

    Noticed that he was busy ruining the checkbooks of two other drivers the past two mornings. Also noticed that traffic is still moving at about 51 mph…

    Update to GeeDashOff: I was in the middle lane – the Lexus in the left.

  • avatar
    AKM

    Thanks for sharing, that’s all very interesting to know…

  • avatar
    Matthew Danda

    Robstar:

    Are you sure the cop was baiting you to speed? He could have been using the time to call in your plates to see if you had a warrant or something. Or perhaps a similar STi was stolen and he was making sure that it wasn’t the same one.

  • avatar

    I’ve been under the impression that fighting the ticket in court doesn’t make much sense. If I plea with the prosecutor before trial I get points knocked off. If I go to trial then the judge gets ticked I’ve wasted her time (and it’s my word against the officer – or ticket sans officer) and then I get full points and full ticket price.

    That being said, I got inordinately upset once when I was in line to talk to the prosecutor and the guy ahead of me got off scot free from a drug charge and then the prosecutor wouldn’t budge on my speeding ticket (this was my first ticket in five years, too). R@t B@st@rd.

  • avatar
    Scott

    I have noticed an increase in police presence at certain handily hideable onramps on my commute. And they’ve really been dicks about work zones, even in ones where I haven’t seen a workman during daylight hours in weeks. Then again, my Fit is gas-happiest right around 60, so I cruise in the slow lane and watch the suckers get picked off.

    As GeeDashOff noted, this also causes people to tailgate/flash brights/gesture rudely when I’m in the middle lane, overtaking someone in the slow lane, because they can’t bear to risk fast lane exposure. The best is when they try to scoot behind me and pass on the right, just as I calmly signal and move back over to cruising position. Playing for max MPG has made me a much less aggressive driver. Or a slowpoke, depending on your driving habits, I guess.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    Isn’t there an inherent conflict of interest in a system that profits from the enforcement of law?

    We saw this with shortened yellow lights when red-light cameras were installed. The companies getting a cut of the tickets had a very profitable reason to reduce public safety at traffic lights if it meant an increase in fines and revenues.

    Traffic ticket fines going back to the police department or the local government are the same exact conflict of interest.

    One could also argue that this ticketing scheme also makes the public less safe by using law enforcement resources to generate revenue instead of performing tasks that could increase public safety like patrolling parks, schools, and towns.

    We need laws that direct ticket fines into some other purpose – like reducing the tax burden on taxpayers by the exact amount written in tickets. This way there is no financial incentive to write tickets.

    Our tax dollars ONLY should support law enforcement – not traffic ticket revenue.

    -ted

  • avatar
    RetardedSparks

    I won’t bore you with pointless anecdotes about “I was going 73 on I-80 last week…”

    But thanks for a very clear and cogent explanation of the system. Many of have known all along that something was going on, but this article puts the pieces together very nicely.

    TTAC is doing a great job of debunking the “traffic enforcement as public safety” myth. It’s all about the cash….

  • avatar
    Mike S

    Thanks for the article.

    The host of a Canadian automotive TV show was warning oncoming traffic of a speed trap by flashing his headlights. A chase car spotted him and ticketed him for “incorrect use of headlights” or something equally silly.

    The host said on the air that the point of speed traps was advertised as being a way to reduce speeds and improve safety. He was helping to do this by trying to ensure other motorists kept to the limit. He went on to say that clearly, the police have an agenda when it comes to speed enforcement and grabbing cash is obviously at the top of the list.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The “deal” is essential to defusing organized resistance to the “system”. Arizona is learning this with the speed cameras. No deal = political resistance.

    This is very true, and one of the reasons I both prefer cameras, and utterly despise the traffic enforcement system.

    I would prefer that people had no option to plea-bargain, especially when they’ve been bagged going over the limit, being over the limit, or going through a light. There should be no room for “discretion” unless the original offense was the result of boneheaded planning (eg, a speed limit that drops faster than most people would normally slow down), in which case the recourse should be to fix the speed limit/stop sign placement, not treat it as an ATM.

    A lot of the problems with traffic enforcement come from the idea the officers and court officials have discretion; as if the law is a kind of bazaar. Cameras actually fix a lot of this, because they remove the ability to wheedle. Where they go wrong is that their operators don’t give up the right to muck with things (yellow times, conditional speed limits) either, and certainly are unwilling to make the device open and transparent to scrutiny. Which is a shame, because a simple machine is potentially a lot more trustworthy than a cop with a quota and a chip on his/her shoulder.

  • avatar

    Thanks for a great, highly informative article that may help me avoid speeding tickets.

  • avatar
    ZoomZoom

    Thank you for this article of truth. No, it was not a happy article, but it was about the truth, and that’s what I come here for.

    You’re on track.

    I got pulled over this week, but was let off with a warning. I was going about 40 in a 35. The motorcycle cop didn’t care about (or didn’t see) the radio station van in front of me blatantly run that red light; he instead wanted to stop the guy in the Prius.

  • avatar
    snabster

    @psarhjinian; that is an interesting take on speed cameras. What is the old Maoist staying: maximize the contradiction?

    I’ve felt the same way about DUIs. If you want to stop drunk driving, apply the same criminal laws to that behavior. Drive drunk and kill someone? First degree murder, with the option of death penalty. Crash into someone: aggravated assault or attempted murder. Rather like Saudi Arabia, but I suspect you’d find a lot less people being killed by drunk drivers.

    But the overall problem is sharing this information with insurance companies. The state does have a right to penalize us for driving fast. If we don’t like it, change the law. But I don’t see why this information needs to be shared with insurance companies — and then let a private corporation benefit from the infraction.

  • avatar

    I wonder if any attorney who’s been assessed a “Driver Responsibility Fee” has tried to fight this clearly unconstitutional attempt to get around the prohibition against double jeopardy in the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution. The problem is that attorneys generally benefit from such fees. The fees are so high, much higher than the actual fines in most cases, that there’s a strong incentive to hire an attorney to fight the case. When such fees were introduced as legislation in the Virgina state legislature it should come as no surprise that the bill was introduced by a legislator whose legal practice specialized in traffic defense.

    They call them “fees” and “assessments” because they can’t call them a fine. If they called it a fine, that would be getting punished twice for the same crime, so the state legislatures use a semantic distinction. By tacking on an arbitrary “fee”, the legislators have essentially said that judges are unnecessary. Why bother having a judge determine what your fine is if no matter what the judge says you’re still going to get socked with $1000 in fees?

    In Michigan there are traffic tickets that will cost you ~$150 when you go to court, but then Lansing will pull your license if you don’t pay them $500/yr for two years.

    These “fees” are complete bullshit, have nothing to do with traffic safety and everything to do with generating revenue.

    Another example how lawyers are a protected class of citizens with special rights and privileges.

  • avatar
    jackc10

    Finances must really be tight in Jacksonville, Florida.

    I got waved over and 45 minutes later (Took a long time to run a rental car tag, I had offered the rental papers) got a ticket from a Community Service Officer. She costs less than a Deputy.

    She was unaware that the detection unit was a Laser, she referred to it twice as Radar. That was one of her closest to appropiate comment. She also managed to almost lose my driver’s license.

    I was not speeding. I had just commented to my passeger how bad the rented Chrysler product rode at 45MPH, the posted speed.

    I live 500 miles away so showing up to contest ticket did not make sense. I complained to Duval County Sheriff’s Office. 4 months later I finally heard back. Lot of good that did me. Hope I never have to spend a dime in that place and can do my business there by phone and internet.

    That is the part revenue seeking jurisdictions overlook. Get your $150 or so but make an enemy.

  • avatar
    wickedwindsor

    It is all about the money.

    seat belt tickets = money tactic.
    driver responsibilty fee = money
    In Michigan, there is not one ticket that is under $130+, other than the seatbelt.
    And when you see the prosecutor to dispute, he will drop the points, but you will always pay more. It’s a business, and it’s all about the money, don’t be fooled.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I had a weird one a few years ago. I was driving my modified Dodge pickup – ’74 C-body suspension and drive train, so it sat pretty low – and a sheriff’s deputy driving a Suburban pulled me over. He said he wondered about my speed, I told him the obvious, I may have been over the limit, but pretty much going with traffic. He told me to watch it, then said he’d been following me for five miles trying to get me to stop. “Didn’t you see my high beams and red lights?” “The headlights I saw, I thought you were the white Chevy pickup with his high beams on I passed about 10 minutes ago; didn’t see the red lights.” The reason I didn’t see them? They were way up on top of his stock-height Suburban, and didn’t show in either my inside or outside mirrors.

    I collect license plates for a hobby, and I’d just been at a state surplus auction; the truck box was stuffed full of license plates, a good many of which were current. He just looked, and didn’t ask.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    But the overall problem is sharing this information with insurance companies. The state does have a right to penalize us for driving fast. If we don’t like it, change the law. But I don’t see why this information needs to be shared with insurance companies — and then let a private corporation benefit from the infraction.

    There’s an argument to be made that the more of a certain type of infraction, the greater the risk you are. Insurers don’t give a shit about a parking tickets because there’s no correlation between someone who leaves their car parked for six hours in a two-hours-only zone and the potential for them to cost the insurer money.

    I’m more or less ok with that, mostly because I’ve seen portions of the rate tables.

    Where I have an issue is when the enforcement is discretionary and it’s up to corrupt morally ambiguous justice system and/or whether someone has the time/money/effort to fight the charge. That means that the insurers are operating on what is, effectively, garbage data.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    Boy you got that right! As a monthly driver between Southern and Northern Califoria, I have seen many more CHPs pulling people over lately than I have in years. (Our state is over $40 billion in debt) And then I got nailed on 580 in Pleasanton a month ago, one of 8 cars pulled over that I saw. I was doing about 75, (in a 65 zone) along with most of the left lane traffic. The van ahead of me, that was speeding, of course did not get nailed. And get this, the Officer (CHP) was a young Chinese immigrant who could barely speak English. I could not understand him. He wrote me for 80 (it really was 75) and I got the bill last week. $198 if I don’t want traffic school, $248 if I do. Traffic school itself would be extra.
    What a bunch of crap.

  • avatar
    menno

    Mrs and I carpool and it’s getting SO bad with willfully bad drivers in Michigan, that we saw this guy coming up to a red light in a red Dodge SUV, slowed down just slightly (it is pretty open and you can see 1/2 block on both cross streets) and he just speeded up and blew the red light.

    Constantly, and I mean every single day, I see multiple occasions of drivers not actually stopping at stop signs on side streets, just blowing through and turning left or right. Not just in the winter time, either. It has been like this for over a decade and getting worse; it is one reason I actually bought the 2002 Hyundai Sonata; it was one of the few new cars I could afford 7 years ago which had driver’s side air bags. I literally sold my collector car because it is no longer fun – but life threatening to be on Michigan roads in an old car.

    In the meanwhile, the “temporary” national 55 mph speed limit which lasted over two decades, essentially made 99.9% of Americans into scofflaws. I partially blame Ronnie Raygun – who PROMISED to remove the stupid thing in 1980 during his election campagn – and promptly dropped it.

    Read a very good article written in a car magazine, testing the then new 1956 Continental (sold alongside sister-marque, Lincoln) on the new US interstates and tollways just being completed from Chicago to NYC. The editor told them to go the speed limit, which ranged from 65 down to a couple of areas where it was 35. They kept track of speeders passing them. Until the outskirts of NYC, they were only passed 1/2 dozen times.

    I know it’s really hard to believe, but Americans used to pretty well follow the letter of the law, when the law was fair, and MOST (certainly not all) of the police seemed to be fair minded and actually out on the roads to serve & protect.

    Now it’s simply revenue generation.

    As for Michigan’s new laws re: “fees” (totally unconstitutional if you ask me…) well, since I got dinged for $200 for going 5 over (and having my insurance go up for 3 years) in 2000, I’ve pretty well tried to go the speed limit (to the total disgust of virtually all other Michigan drivers). Interestingly, I don’t seem to be getting to my destinations any later than I used to, since virtually 99% of my journeys are under 45 miles, anyway, and probably 90% of them under 20.

    One thing I haven’t noticed is an uptick of tailgating. But then when 90% of the drivers out there tailgate (menace) virtually all the time anyway, an uptick would probably have to be 100%.

    The other interesting fact about driving in America / Michigan, is the fact that a lot of folks seem to be very lonely / don’t have a life / can’t seem to manage to wait until they get home or to the office to blab on their damned cell phones.

    Of course, while blabbing on a cell phone, driving a 4500 pound SUV merely becomes a secondary activity.

    It looks like I’m driving with a bunch of drunks, with a good 20-30% of the drivers that I see on my commute EVERY morning and EVERY evening, seemingly constantly on their damned phones.

    We need a proper job of driver’s education in this country, like the UK. We also need better lawmakers and better police, as well.

    I guess we get flawed and miserably bad drivers policed by fleece-master cops using laws made up by crooks. We deserve each other, therefore, eh?

  • avatar
    ctoan

    I’m going to have to disagree with psarhjinian and say that we need more discretionary enforcement of speed, and do away with absolute speed limits entirely. I don’t really believe that it’s possible to set a speed limit that will be safe for all conditions, be they traffic, weather, time of day, large animal activity, construction, bad drivers, children, etc. The police would decide if you’re going too fast (or too slow) for conditions, and issue tickets accordingly. There’d be no fine, but possible jail time for gross violations, and your insurance company would be free to adjust your rates as they pleased.

    Since that’s never going to happen, I say just put speed cameras around and eliminate the points system. Call it a speed tax and stop lying to us.

  • avatar
    menno

    ctoan, the state of Montana brought back “no daytime speed limit other than safe and prudent” a few years back and it was a disaster.

    Just whose version of “safe and prudent” is a judge going to believe? The cop, or the guy from 2 states away who decided he’d like to try a run on the US equivalent of the autobahn?

    Ticket revenues actually went UP in Montana, but then when complaints also skyrocketed, the state legislature put speed limits back into place.

    I’m telling you – 2 generations ago, adults were much more responsible and grown-up.

    For example, did you know that a good number of states didn’t even HAVE daytime speed limits outside of village/town/city limits, as recently as the 1950′s and 1960′s? Michigan included.

    “Safe and prudent” was the speed limit. Speeding tickets were handed out usually in towns, or with agrievously bad driving such as dangerous passing, or after obvious accidents involving excessive speed / lack of control.

    Much like in Eastern US states right now, where you actually only get tailgating tickets AFTER you rear-end someone.

    In Michigan, technically there is such a violation, but I’ve NEVER SEEN ONE on any DMV reports, and I’ve seen hundreds from all states.

    By the way, speed limits are NOT set for 10-15 below what road engineers think is safe. Unless politicized (which is often the case in towns/communities), speed limits are set for safe DAY TIME CLEAR DRIVING, with the provision that speeds should actually come DOWN during inclement weather / poor visibility.

    Yeah, I know, it sounds like common sense – something most of us don’t want to hear about.

  • avatar
    rtz

    “The recession is here. Government budgets are under threat. The word has gone out: write tickets!”

    Absolute one hundred percent truth. I just got a ticket a couple days ago. They are out there in full force right now.

  • avatar
    Ferrygeist

    Superb editorial; thank you.

    It’s not moving violation-related, but I’m convinced that the city of Los Angeles is leaning on its parking enforcement group to generate more revenue. I even started the long pointless process of calling the city to complain about what I called to them predatory ticketing.

    My neighborhood isn’t en route to anywhere. It’s very old, tucked up in the canyons of a hill most people in LA have never heard of, the roads are very narrow and twisty, with lots of dead ends and dirt. And yet, the number of parking citations issued is staggering, and mostly for things like expired tags (but with valid reg) and no front plates, more than 72 hours parking, on roads they have to go out of their way to get to, and do a U turn at the top, and, almost always after midnight and before dawn.

    I’ve gotten more parking tickets in the last three months than I did in the previous ten years (Alas, I have tought myself to see it as the price of having sports cars to which I will not affix a front plate; this, on the one or two nights that I happen to leave one or the other parked outside).

  • avatar
    James2

    I went to court to fight a ticket once. Waited all day for my 15 minutes and, when my turn was up, it turned out that the bastard cop didn’t bother to show up. (He knew he was wrong the minute he pulled me over, but these arrogant pricks don’t care.) It took all of a minute for the prosecutor to drop the case. I was happy –but also steaming mad.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’m going to have to disagree with psarhjinian and say that we need more discretionary enforcement of speed, and do away with absolute speed limits entirely.

    I think you misunderstand what I mean by “discretionary”.

    I don’t really believe that it’s possible to set a speed limit that will be safe for all conditions, be they traffic, weather, time of day, large animal activity, construction, bad drivers, children, etc.

    That’s a “conditional” speed limit, not a discretionary one. A conditional one is known, signed and codified; a discretionary one, well, is the police officer having a bad day? Are you the wrong colour for your car and neighbourhood? Is it the end of the month? Is the town facing a budget shortfall?

    I’ve seen conditional speed limits in Germany and Switzerland, where the limit(s) change depending on the vehicle type, if you’re towing, what the weather is and what the time of day is. The signs change, too, and they’re bloody, blindingly obvious.

    Basically, it comes down to this: if you hit something and you were going the limit, chances are it’s not your fault and it is the other guy’s. If you were going over the limit, it may or may not have been your fault, but you were still going too fast for what planners determined to be the safe speed. Too bad for you.

    Maybe I’ve just become jaded in my experiences with traffic enforcement, but if you give the government discretion within the law, you’ll be on the bad end of it. I’d rather they set an absolute, consistently-enforced limit, even if it’s overzealous, because at least then I’d have the chance to fight it through the democratic process, rather than clog up the courts in a useless, selfish gesture that only perpetuates the problem.

  • avatar
    fallout11

    Traffic citation = Random taxation
    Revenue enforcement replaced safety concerns long ago, lads, and with the tax revenues plummeting expect much, much more of this, rather than less even with shrinking state/local budgets.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    If you don’t want to get snagged out of the flow, try not to fit the current drug profile. Pretext isn’t just a river in Egypt. Or something.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Debate that as you will, but the police allow some leeway. Most 55 mph roads are “stay under 70.” Most 65 mph roads are “stay under 80.” In New York City, rare is the speeding ticket under 70 mph in a 50 mph zone (rare, not nonexistent, so don’t go 70 and blame me later). It’s also worth noting that most ticket writing involves random selection from a pack of traffic. (This is where the silver Accord beats the red Corvette.)

    So most drivers getting ticketed were doing 15 above the posted limit. I’m sorry, but I can’t get worked up about this. 15mph seems like ample leeway to me. Looks like a tax on stupidity to me.

  • avatar
    tms1999

    I only got speeding tickets in Belgium, where the system is openly, cynically corrupt. They use bumper mounted camera systems on cars, usually parked/hidden on the side of the road.

    Passing motorists who speed get a nice picture taken of their license plate and the registered owner gets a letter in the mail.

    With the letter comes 3 choices:
    - Give us the identity of the driver if it’s not you, and that person will get the fine.
    - Pay an administrative fee, based on how many KPH over the speed limit you were driving. Paying the fee will automatically cause the charges to be dropped, and no record of violation will appear on your file.
    - Don’t pay the fee and have your day in court, where a judge, very unsympathetic to your cause, will use his/her discretion to asses a real fine and make sure the violation will follow your police record forever.

    How unsympathetic are the judges? Well, doctors speeding on a way to an emergency don’t get breaks.

    So kids, pay the fee.

  • avatar

    So most drivers getting ticketed were doing 15 above the posted limit. I’m sorry, but I can’t get worked up about this. 15mph seems like ample leeway to me. Looks like a tax on stupidity to me.

    This is the problem with American Speed Limit setting. We all know the “real number” is somewhere else…but that number fluctuates day by day. I’ve heard enough “radar trap” chatter on my scanner to know that 70 or 72 or 75 as a “pull speed” is a matter of groupthink by the cops on the side of the road. If no one is going too fast, that number drops so they can write tickets.

    If the numbers were set 70 or 80, with tickets “five over” it would be a lot more fair.

  • avatar
    mpresley

    In Orlando, Fl. I never speed around town–OK, maybe 5 over. It’s too risky, and fines are high. On the turnpike and Interstate my cc is set on 80, and I’ve never gotten as much as a blink from a trooper. In fact, most are passing me. I’m guessing you have to be going about 85, or even 90 for a ticket.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    This is the problem with American Speed Limit setting. We all know the “real number” is somewhere else…but that number fluctuates day by day. I’ve heard enough “radar trap” chatter on my scanner to know that 70 or 72 or 75 as a “pull speed” is a matter of groupthink by the cops on the side of the road. If no one is going too fast, that number drops so they can write tickets.

    If the numbers were set 70 or 80, with tickets “five over” it would be a lot more fair.

    The “real number” is the one on the sign. Just that simple. You can’t get a ticket for doing 70 in a 70. The sign tells you how fast you can go, and the speedometer in your car tells you whether you are above, at, or below that number.

    The idea that the “real number” is somewhere else is groupthing by people who think limits don’t apply to themselves.

  • avatar
    B.C.

    The idea that the “real number” is somewhere else is groupthing by people who think limits don’t apply to themselves.

    And has nothing to do with the fact that the majority of traffic on the road travels at this “real number” which is higher than the posted limit?

  • avatar
    Strippo

    And has nothing to do with the fact that the majority of traffic on the road travels at this “real number” which is higher than the posted limit?

    This is why the “law is the law” zealots travel in the left lane, conveniently ignoring the “slower traffic keep right” signs.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    And has nothing to do with the fact that the majority of traffic on the road travels at this “real number” which is higher than the posted limit?

    No, it has nothing to do with that.

    If a lot of people jaywalk does that mean the “real” crosswalk is J-shaped? Or does it mean that a lot of people just find it more convienient to walk where they want?

    If a lot of people share and downlowd music files does that mean “real” copywright protection doesn’t exist? Or is it just that they’d rather not pay for a new CD? Personally, I’ll rip off the music industry any chance I get, but why should I pretend that what I’m doing is the “real” copyright law?

  • avatar
    fallout11

    Thomas Jefferson wisely observed that when the majority does not agree with a law or rule, they will ignore it, and such law or rule is fundamentally unjust (i.e. should be repealed or changed).
    Speed limits fit his criteria nicely, as is evident not only from DOT traffic surveys, engineering studies, and personal observation. Worth noting.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Here in Pennsylvania the speed limit on limited access highways is 65 mph; 15 mph over is 80 mph. There are plenty of people who drive 80-85 mph. The typical speed is about 75 mph.

    I’d say that people are voting with their left foot.

    Sorry, but I have a tough time taking seriously anyone who gets worked up over people driving 80 mph on a limited access highway (conditions permitting).

    It’s also worth remembering that our interstate highway system was designed to allow the typical 1956 domestic car to travel safely at 75 mph.

    Newsflash – today’s vehicles are miles ahead of any 1956 sports car in handling, braking, acceleration and safety.

    Yes, it’s the law, but so were Prohibition and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. So simply saying, “It’s the law” isn’t enough – at least for those who actually do something called research and can therefore think for themselves – because not all laws are equal.

    Would any poster have the same reaction to these scenarios:

    Your new neighbor says, “I usually drive 80 mph on the (nearest rural interstate).”

    Versus, “I just knocked over the local liquor store and pistol-whipped the clerk.”

    Or even, “I was really hammered after that party last night; it’s a miracle I was able to drive home without having an accident.”

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    speedlaw:
    I’ve heard enough “radar trap” chatter on my scanner to know that 70 or 72 or 75 as a “pull speed” is a matter of groupthink by the cops on the side of the road. If no one is going too fast, that number drops so they can write tickets.

    Yeah. The arbitrary nature of enforcment is annoying.

    You’d think there’d be a data mining firm selling cellular or camera data on average highway speeds. Or how about radio stations’ traffic reporters? Instead of saying highway X is “up to speed” they could say that highway X is “moving at about 75 mph”.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I’d say that people are voting with their left foot.

    They aren’t voting. A new speed limit is not enacted when a certain threshold of violation has been reached. They are simply deciding the rules shouldn’t apply to them.

    It’s interesting how this dovetails with our discussion of highway safety. People are deliberately choosing to disregard the rules. If one can rationalize going 15 over, one can probably rationalize stopping off for a few martinis, talking on the cell, searching for the CD that dropped on the floor, palying with the NAV system ……

    Sorry, but I have a tough time taking seriously anyone who gets worked up over people driving 80 mph on a limited access highway (conditions permitting).

    And I have a tough time getting worked up about them getting a ticket. If they’re going to do 10 or 15 over, then they’re likely to be spotted by smokey. The rules are clear, well understood, and easy to follow. If they want to see what they can get away with, and they get caught, then they should just pay the ticket and not act like a petulant children screaming “It’s no fair!” (That comment is not directed at any particular individual)

    It’s also worth remembering that our interstate highway system was designed to allow the typical 1956 domestic car to travel safely at 75 mph.

    Newsflash – today’s vehicles are miles ahead of any 1956 sports car in handling, braking, acceleration and safety.

    Equally worth noting is that there is a lot more traffic today.

    Yes, it’s the law, but so were Prohibition and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. So simply saying, “It’s the law” isn’t enough – at least for those who actually do something called research and can therefore think for themselves – because not all laws are equal.

    Deciding not to obey the law is not “thinking for one’s self”. No one every got out of a speak-easy raid by claiming that prohibition was a bad law.

    Prohibition was repealed. Slavery was abolished. The 70mph speed limit, by contrast, still stands in most places.

    Should the speed limit be raised? Perhaps. Has it been? No. Saying “It’s the law” is enough, until the law is changed.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    Should the speed limit be raised? Perhaps. Has it been? No. Saying “It’s the law” is enough, until the law is changed.

    Enough for what?

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Enough to issue speeding tickets.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Dynamic88: They aren’t voting. A new speed limit is not enacted when a certain threshold of violation has been reached. They are simply deciding the rules shouldn’t apply to them.

    They are making the choice how fast to drive. That seems like voting on what the appropriate speed is for a given stretch of road.

    Dynamic88: It’s interesting how this dovetails with our discussion of highway safety. People are deliberately choosing to disregard the rules. If one can rationalize going 15 over, one can probably rationalize stopping off for a few martinis, talking on the cell, searching for the CD that dropped on the floor, palying with the NAV system ……

    You’re missing a key distinction. The other activities you mention are dangerous. Driving 80 on a limited access highway isn’t.

    Dynamic88: And I have a tough time getting worked up about them getting a ticket. If they’re going to do 10 or 15 over, then they’re likely to be spotted by smokey. The rules are clear, well understood, and easy to follow. If they want to see what they can get away with, and they get caught, then they should just pay the ticket and not act like a petulant children screaming “It’s no fair!” (That comment is not directed at any particular individual)

    The ticket is designed to raise revenue, and nothing more. It is doing nothing to improve safety – unless we really believe that people driving 80 on a limited access highway represents some sort of mortal threat. One hopes that no one believes that one in 2009.

    Targeting an activity under the guise of improving safety, when it’s really designed to raise revenue, only increases public cynicism and distrust of govermment.

    Dynamic88: Equally worth noting is that there is a lot more traffic today.

    Not in rural areas. Equally worth noting is that even with people driving faster than ever in more cars than ever, the death rate per 100 million miles driven is at record lows.

    Dynamic88: Deciding not to obey the law is not “thinking for one’s self”. No one every got out of a speak-easy raid by claiming that prohibition was a bad law.

    Researching whether laws are effective, whether the activity in question really does present a danger, and determining just WHAT is driving enforcement efforts IS thinking for oneself, and is EXACTLY the type of initiative we need in this country.

    Dynamic88: Prohibition was repealed. Slavery was abolished. The 70mph speed limit, by contrast, still stands in most places.

    Prohibition was repealed because it was openly flouted, and increased the public’s disrespect for ALL laws. The Fugitive Slave Act became almost impossible to enforce, even before the Civil War.

    What led to their repeal was mass disobedience…similar to people voting with their left foot today.

    The federal government didn’t wake up in 1933 and suddenly decide that Prohibition was a bad idea.

    Apparently, government was smarter and more responsive in those days.

    With today’s thinking, the response in 1933 would have been to up the fines on beer and wine drinking, crank up the news stories wailing about demon rum, and use the resulting revenue to fill the holes in local budgets caused by the Great Depression.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    They are making the choice how fast to drive. That seems like voting on what the appropriate speed is for a given stretch of road.

    Nothing about choosing to exceed the posted limit is akin to voting. You may as well say that people who don’t pay their taxes are “voting” on what the appropriate tax rates ought to be.

    You’re missing a key distinction. The other activities you mention are dangerous. Driving 80 on a limited access highway isn’t.

    It is for a lot of people. Young people tend not to make good judgments. Some people’s eyesight is only fair. Sometimes traffic conditions are not appropriate for driving 80. I don’t have a problem with allowing you (geeber) to drive 80, but I’m not ready to give everyone on the road carte blanche to decide for themselves what the appropriate speed should be. We need a bright-line rule simply because a lot of people are foolhardy.

    The ticket is designed to raise revenue, and nothing more. It is doing nothing to improve safety – unless we really believe that people driving 80 on a limited access highway represents some sort of mortal threat. One hopes no one believes that one in 2009.

    I believe in many cases it is a mortal threat. But putting that aside, I don’t care that the primary purpose is to raise revenue. No one has to pay a ticket if they don’t speed. If cops were pulling people over for going 72 in a 70, I’d be upset. People going 80 or more in a 70 know damn well they are breaking the law, and they have no compelling reason for breaking it other than their personal disinclination to drive at the posted limit. I have no sympathy. None.

    If one absolutely “must” speed, why not go about 77? The police will find bigger fish to fry, and you’ll still save a precious 3.5 minutes on your journey to work. What the author is writing about is a tax on stupidity.

    Targeting an activity under the guise of improving safety, when it’s really designed to raise revenue, only increases public cynicism and distrust of govermment.

    There is some merit in that argument, though I think people driving 80 is more dangerous than you think.

    Not in rural areas. …

    Then advocate higher speeds in rural areas, but not urban areas.

    … Equally worth noting is that even with people driving faster than ever in more cars than ever, the death rate per 100 million miles driven is at record lows.

    The death rate is lower because of safety equipment. It’s still no fun to be in an accident, even if you walk away. What is the accident rate now, compared to ’56?

    Researching whether laws are effective, whether the activity in question really does present a danger, and determining just WHAT is behind enforcement efforts IS thinking for oneself, and is EXACTLY the type of initiative we need in this country.

    Yes it is. But rationalizing that it’s ok to speed, because of what your research indicates, isn’t thinking for yourself. It’s just deciding you don’t want to follow the rules.

    What led to their repeal was mass disobedience…similar to people voting with their left foot today.

    Not really. Alcohol consumption actually dropped during prohibition. But again, there is nothing even remotely akin to voting going on. If you want to change the law, write your congress critter, but don’t pretend someone in the legislature is tabulating speeding tickets to see if the unpopularity of the current limits reaches some sort of critical mass.

    Apparently, government was smarter and more responsive in those days.

    13-14 years is responsive?

  • avatar
    geeber

    Dynamic88: Nothing about choosing to exceed the posted limit is akin to voting. You may as well say that people who don’t pay their taxes are “voting” on what the appropriate tax rates ought to be.

    People make a choice when they drive, and it is a decision that reflects what they believe is a safe speed.

    As for taxes – people, by and large, are paying their taxes (at least, those who aren’t in line for an important position with the Obama Administration).

    People aren’t driving drunk in large numbers.

    When I get on the Pennsylvania Turnpike or I-81, set the cruise at 70 mph, and am passed by every vehicle except Buicks and a few tractor trailers, I can logically conclude that people are expressing their views on what is a safe speed for that stretch of road.

    If I told friends, family and co-workers that I were driving drunk on a regular basis, or not paying my federal income tax, I would get a much different reaction than if I told them I regularly drive 80 mph on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

    Which tells me that people view obedience to those laws in very different terms.

    Dynamic88: It is for a lot of people. Young people tend not to make good judgments. Some people’s eyesight is only fair. Sometimes traffic conditions are not appropriate for driving 80. I don’t have a problem with allowing you (geeber) to drive 80, but I’m not ready to give everyone on the road carte blanche to decide for themselves what the appropriate speed should be. We need a bright-line rule simply because a lot of people are foolhardy.

    If people cannot handle a passenger car at 80 mph on a limited access highway, they really shouldn’t be on the road, period. Which is why I support graduated licenses and stricter licensing requirements for teens, and more aggressive procedures to screen older drivers.

    Slowing everyone down for the laggards is like requiring the track team to make room for the overweight couch potato who spends most of his time playing video games and watching Jeopardy reruns.

    Dynamic88: I believe in many cases it is a mortal threat. But putting that aside, I don’t care that the primary purpose is to raise revenue. No one has to pay a ticket if they don’t speed. If cops were pulling people over for going 72 in a 70, I’d be upset. People going 80 or more in a 70 know damn well they are breaking the law, and they have no compelling reason for breaking it other than their personal disinclination to drive at the posted limit. I have no sympathy. None.

    And since virtually everyone involved in the process has pretty much admitted that the primary reason for speed limits on limited access highways and tickets is to raise money, I see no problem with driving 80 mph, and taking whatever steps necessary to avoid tickets (radar and laser detectors, for example).

    Dynamic88: If one absolutely “must” speed, why not go about 77? The police will find bigger fish to fry, and you’ll still save a precious 3.5 minutes on your journey to work. What the author is writing about is a tax on stupidity.

    Wait…80 is a mortal threat, but 77 mph is okay? Sorry, can’t buy it.

    Dynamic88: The death rate is lower because of safety equipment. It’s still no fun to be in an accident, even if you walk away. What is the accident rate now, compared to ‘56?

    The death rate has been dropping since the 1920s, before Ralph Nader was even born (in 1934).

    Besides, even if it is solely the result of safety equipment, it still shows that driving at 80 mph is safe. If cars have the equipment to handle speeds of 80 mph, there is no problem with taking advantage of those increased capabilities.

    Dynamic88: Not really. Alcohol consumption actually dropped during prohibition. But again, there is nothing even remotely akin to voting going on. If you want to change the law, write your congress critter, but don’t pretend someone in the legislature is tabulating speeding tickets to see if the unpopularity of the current limits reaches some sort of critical mass.

    There was plenty of illegal drinking going on during the late 1920s and 1930s. The simple fact is that the law had become virtually unenforceable in many areas – particularly cities. And even many people who didn’t drink were tired of government resources being used to enforce Prohibition.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    You’d think there’d be a data mining firm selling cellular or camera data on average highway speeds. Or how about radio stations’ traffic reporters? Instead of saying highway X is “up to speed” they could say that highway X is “moving at about 75 mph”.…

    Done already…Any EZPass type of device does the dirty work. Some parts of the country have signs that post travel times using EZpass. Allegedly, the data is washed from its origin…yeah I believe that…

    BTW, Just got bagged with a speeding ticket in Colorado on vacation…pure revenue generation. The cop was robot.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Wait…80 is a mortal threat, but 77 mph is okay? Sorry, can’t buy it.

    You missed the point completely.

    It’s not that 77 is safe, it’s that 77 isn’t likely to get you noticed when there are plenty of people running 83-85. As I keep saying, this is a tax on stupidity. If you want to run over the posted limit and you decide to run 15 over in a red Corvette, you’re getting nailed. Run 7 over in a Silver Accord and the police will find someone else to pull over.

    But speed gets noticed. So if you run your Silver Accord at 85, you’ll also get ticketed.

  • avatar
    B.C.

    Dynamic88, I still don’t get what you’re trying to say. What’s the point of a speed limit if nobody obeys it and it’s only randomly enforced? What do you mean tax on stupidity? Why is everyone going 10-15 mph over then? Are they all stupid?

    And FYI, there’s a reason the Prohibition was repealed. Hit some history books or Wikipedia at the very least.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Dynamic88: You missed the point completely.

    It’s not that 77 is safe, it’s that 77 isn’t likely to get you noticed when there are plenty of people running 83-85.

    You are missing two key points.

    One, driving 80 mph on a limited access highway is not dangerous. Informed drivers understand this, which is why they ignore underposted speed limits.

    And, two, you need to decide whether the problem is people not blindly obeying the law or whether they are death-on-wheels at 80 mph.

    If the problem is the latter, then it doesn’t make much difference whether they drive 77 mph or 80 mph.

    Dynamic88: As I keep saying, this is a tax on stupidity. If you want to run over the posted limit and you decide to run 15 over in a red Corvette, you’re getting nailed. Run 7 over in a Silver Accord and the police will find someone else to pull over.

    And what people have been saying is that targeting people for exceeding an arbitrary number posted on a sign is a waste of law enforcement time and resources.

    Dynamic88: But speed gets noticed. So if you run your Silver Accord at 85, you’ll also get ticketed.

    I would rather that bad driving – loafing in the passing lane, tailgating, etc. – get noticed by the appropriate authorities. Focusing on whether people are exceeding two numbers posted on a sign is silly at best, and counterproductive at worst.

  • avatar
    fallout11

    “Arbitrary and capricious [enforcement/limits] is the very definition of injustice.” – Daniel Webster

    Geeber, I suspect that Dynamic88 is a bit like that old lady driving 52mph in the far left lane that we both just blew past going 80.
    Dynamic88: Americans are not allowed to vote for speed limits on individual roads, under individual circumstances. Therefore, these restrictions are imposed upon us without our consent or representation and are thus, in the worlds of this nations’ founding fathers, fundamentally unjust. They are not made with safety, traffic flow, or engineering in mind (which is why the limit typically is 10-15mph below the engineering survey) but rather the lowest common denominator of driver skill level and, ahem, revenue generation criterion.

    To compensate, drivers make individual decisions about route, road speed, and such. This, as Geeber points out, is the closest thing toward individual ‘voting’ possible. See also DOT studies showing 87% of Americans “routinely” ignore the posted limit on US interstates, and the student film showing what happens when a group of cars travel at the ridiculous posted limit on Atlanta’s perimeter (I-285).

    Most Americans also eat a lot of fried fast food and don’t get much physical exercise. That’s their choice also, healthy decision or not.

  • avatar

    About 2 years ago I took a safety driving course to reduce my insurance cost, I admit that I learned a thing or two, things I did not know before, I got my license in 1978.
    At first, after completing the course, I was driving at the posted speed limit, after a day or two I stopped, the reason was that I felt so unsafe on some roads, driving on the LIE (495) to Long Island, posted speed is 55, 70 or 80 was the average even on the HOV lane, so I did not go that fast, but I felt much better at 65.
    Using my Garmin GPS, on the right corner I can see time of arrival to destination, it’s amazing to notice time after time how little that changes with increase or decrease of speed, I always take notice of the time when I start, then keep an eye on it and amazingly, in trips of 30 to 100 miles, the changes are so little, less than 10 min. It does feel as if you’ll get “there” much faster if you do 80, but you can’t “feel” your average speed that is the real factor in time to destination.

  • avatar
    tdarby

    i was caught speeding, moving totally with the flow at 72 in a 50 zone on route 95 in NY (i guess my Rhode Island plate stuck out); i still don’t know if there is even a 50 zone here…..I paid the $90 ticket in good faith; 2 weeks later, I got whacked with a driver responsibility assessment of $300……i was never informed that by paying the ticket (pleading guilty) there would be additional fines…..isn’t this double jeopardy?


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