From VASCAR calculators to hidden cameras, radars and known-location speed cameras, police departments have every angle covered when it comes to catching traffic violators. In some states, they have even more — they have slanted laws that favor the evidence from the devices. In the state of Vermont, for instance, the law assumes that police officers have inbuilt radars — they are allowed to guess at the speed of a vehicle and have their guess stand in court.
Since you can’t catch every speed sign as you drive, it can make sense to constantly keep an eye on the way the traffic around you behaves. If drivers around you seem to be slowing down, you should too, even when you haven’t seen a sign asking you to slow down. It also pays to keep a low profile. For instance, if you have a sports car, you should know that the police expect you to speed and watch you closely when they can. You have less room for mistakes than someone who drives a minivan. You’ll need to be extra careful.
Here are a few more specific tips on what you can do to avoid speeding tickets.
If you’re pulled over, watch your mouth
It’s a good idea to be friendly and polite to a policeman who pulls you over. Friendliness, though, doesn’t need to involve being chatty. The more you talk, the greater the risk that you will accidentally incriminate yourself in some way. It’s important to say as little as possible. When pulled over, you are only required to follow instructions — not answer questions. If the policeman asks you for any information, you can ask to speak to your lawyer. It’s important to remember to be polite through the process. The more antagonistic you are, the more violations the police are likely to write you up for.
After you’re written up, challenge the legality of the ticket
Equipment that’s used to measure a vehicle’s speed usually needs regular calibration if it is to not show incorrect readings. Police departments, though, are often too busy to make time for equipment calibration. If you’ve been caught, chances are that the measuring device is a poorly calibrated unit. All you need to do to get rid of such a ticket is to challenge the police department in court for using poorly maintained equipment. The Freedom of Information Act gives you the right to ask for calibration information.
If you were measured with a laser device, the ticket is automatically thrown out by the court because laser devices cannot be calibrated. You simply need to show up and challenge it.
If yours is a photo ticket (a speeding ticket based on evidence from an automatic camera), the law in many states requires that the forensics expert who analyzed the photo to determine your speed needs be present in court. This is because the law allows you the right to “face in your accuser.” Often, though, police departments are too understaffed to be able to spare their forensic experts. If you show up, then, you win by default.
Beat the ticket on a technicality
Every driver should look up the manual on uniform traffic control devices on the Internet at mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/ser-shs_millennium.htm. This document details the exact approved design for every kind of traffic sign — typeface, size, color and so on. A significant proportion of the signs you see on the streets are not up to spec. You should check the speed sign that you are supposed to have violated to see if it’s actually up to code. If it isn’t, mentioning it in court will get you out of the charge.
In any legal case, you can have your credibility and integrity questioned if you mis-remember one detail from one court hearing or police hearing to the next. You can use this devotion to technical accuracy in your favor. Unless it is illegal in your state to record conversations with the police (it is illegal in Maryland, for instance), you should be alert enough to switch on your cellphone’s recording mode as soon as you are pulled over. Then, you should compare the language used in the court filing with what you hear in your recording. If there is a contradiction, you will easily win.
Another example of a technical violation would be inadequate pacing. Usually, the law requires that an officer follow you for between a third of a mile and half a mile before stopping you. You need to ask the officer if he actually did it. Officers often neglect to follow protocol.