Editorial: The Truth About Speeding Tickets and the Recession

Casey W. Raskob
by Casey W. Raskob

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]

Casey W. Raskob
Casey W. Raskob

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  • Ddr7 Ddr7 on Mar 09, 2009

    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.

  • Tdarby Tdarby on Sep 08, 2009

    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?

  • VoGhost Fantastic work by Honda design. When I first saw the pictures, I thought "Is that a second gen Acura NSX?"
  • V16 2025 VW GLI...or 2025 Honda Civic SI? Same target audience, similar price points. Both are rays of sun in the gray world of SUV'S.
  • FreedMike Said this before and I'll say it again: I'm not that exercised about this whole "pay for a subscription" thing, as long as the deal's reasonable. And here's how you make it reasonable: offer it a monthly charge. Let's say that adaptive headlights are a $500 option on this vehicle, and the subscription is $15 a month, or $540 over a three year lease. So you try the feature for a month, and if you like it, you keep it; if you don't, then you discontinue it, like a Netflix subscription. In any case, you didn't get charged $500 up front the feature. That's not a bad deal.In my case, let's say VW offers an over the air chip reflash that gives me another 25 hp. The total price of the upgrade is $1,000 (which is what a reflash would cost you in the aftermarket). If they offered me a one time monthly subscription for $50 to try it out, I'd take it. In other words, maybe the news isn't all bad.
  • 2ACL A good car, but - at least in this configuration -not one that should command a premium. Its qualities just aren't as enduring as those of Honda's contemporary sports cars. For better or worse, this is a formula they remain able to replicate.
  • Jalop1991 I just read that Tesla's profits are WAY down "as the electric vehicle company has faced both more EV competition from established automakers and a slowing of overall EV sales growth." This Cadillac wouldn't help Tesla at all, but the slowing market of EV sales overall means this should be a halo/boutique car. Regardless, yes, they should make it.