How to Avoid Speeding Tickets: Essential Tips You Need to Know
How to avoid speeding tickets
Essential tips you need to know to avoid a speeding ticket
Higher Speed Limits Will Reduce Incidence of Speeding Tickets
Let’s not beat around the bush. If you are researching on how to avoid speeding tickets, you probably speed at some point or are at least concerned enough about potentially getting a speeding ticket if you travel areas that are routinely patroled. In and of itself, speeding doesn’t make you an unsafe driver, despite claims by the politically correct crowd or from the revenue generating municipalities. Prudent driving is safe driving–irrespective of speed–as Montanans once knew and Texans are discovering (recently posting the highest speed limit in North America at 85mph).
It’s not uncommon to drive in speed zones that are posted too low. Speed limits should be based upon what is called the 85th percentile speed. This is the rate that approximately 85% of the vehicles that travel the roadway do not exceed. In other words, the speed at which most drivers feel comfortable driving. You’ll know when you are on such roads, because the traffic flow will feel very natural and often you will not feel the need to speed.
Speed measurement studies should be carried out periodically by the state or local municipalities to determine this, but often this is not the case. What this means is that many posted speed limits are lower than they should be. Not good for the drivers, but especially nice for police departments intent on raising revenue through the issuance of speeding tickets.
Full disclosure. Before I get to the my personal tips, let me be clear at the outset: I have had my share of speeding tickets. If you drive far enough and fast enough, sooner or later it’s going to happen. You are going to get a speeding ticket. The odds simply catch up with you. But, one thing is for sure, I would have accumulated many more speeding tickets if I hadn’t devised a strategy to safely avoid them.
I have driven many hundreds of thousands of miles over the decades and a good number of them on the highway at eye-popping speeds for extended miles at a time. I’m not simply talking about 15mph over the posted speed limit, but sometimes more. Sometime a lot more.
At these speeds you cross a threshold where speeding ticket penalties often increase significantly–both in fines and points accessed which comes at a risk of license suspension. When you drive an E39 BMW–regarded as one of the best sports sedans ever produced–speeds come easily and without drama. These cars are Autobahn cruisers.
So with this disclosure out in the open, let’s get to my proven tips on how to avoid speeding tickets.
Tough to avoid a speeding ticket when this NJ state trooper targets cars from the rear from a hidden position
Tip #1: Always drive with situational awareness.
Without question this is the most important thing you can do to avoid speeding tickets.
What does this mean exactly? It means pay close attention to your surroundings and the behavior of the traffic ahead and approaching. Get in the habit of looking farther ahead of you. The majority of drivers only look a car length or two ahead. Also, look for things that are out of the ordinary.
For example, is a vehicle ahead of you braking for no apparent reason? If so, it is quite possible that the driver has stumbled upon a hidden patrol vehicle that you can’t see. It’s instinctive for people to hit the brakes when a police car is spotted, even if they’re not speeding. Unexpected braking is a tell-tale sign that trouble may be ahead and safely reacting to it is a sure way to a avoid speeding ticket.
Pay attention to the cars approaching on the opposite side of the highway. It’s not uncommon for other drivers to flash their headlights to alert drivers of patrol vehicles that they’ve already passed. As a courtesy to other drivers, be sure to return the favor, by flashing your lights to other vehicles when you come across a hidden speed trap yourself.
In states, such a Pennsylvania, local police often use time-distance computers, ENRADD, and VASCAR to measure average speed over a specific distance. Look for the signs of such traps on the roadway. These locations are typically marked with two painted lines separated by about 100 or so feet.
Often such speed traps are situated on secondary roadways, but they also can be found on highways too. In those cases, the painted lines are often placed a mile apart and are used by air patrols. In either case, it’s important to know that speeds are measured over a distance and represent the average speed traveled in a specific amount of time. To an attentive driver, this can work out to your advantage because one can slow down significantly during your speed “clock,” which reduces your average speed and again will help you avoid a speeding ticket.
Be sure to look to both sides of the road and oftentimes you will be able to spot a parked patrol car either in a driveway (in a neighborhood) or an adjacent road. Be especially vigilant at night. Contrary to conventional wisdom, such traps can easily be operated at night and it’s not uncommon for patrol cars to have their parking lights on. Many patrol vehicles have retroreflective paint or stickers, which can make spotting them at night even easier.
Always know what the posted speed limits actually are. One state highways, like Route 1 that runs along the East Coast, there are many places where the posted speed limit drops quickly from 55mph to 45mph and then down to 35mph. These guys love to sit in the 35mph zones waiting to issue speeding tickets to hapless drivers who are simply driving inattentively and miss the precipitous drops of the posted speed limit.
Generally speed limit reductions like are limited to 10mph increments, which is why they can occur so quickly, perhaps in the span of a 30 seconds and in the space of less than a mile. If you are not paying attention, you could find yourself easily going 20mph or more over the posted speed limit even if you had been otherwise driving obediently.
Also be cognizant of the posting of artificially low speed limits for the type of highway you are driving as this could is very likely a corridor for aggressive speed enforcement.
Video tutorial: How to avoid a speeding ticket
The key is to be aware at all times. It’s easier said than done and it’s going to take practice, but after a while, it will become instinctive.
Tip #2: Know the preferred spots the police operate their speed traps.
Police often operate police radar or police laser from hidden positions on the roadway. Preferred spots are in the median between both directions of travel and often at u-turn points marked “official use only.” Where the median is wooded or has a lot of foliage, it’s quite common for the police to hide in preparation for an ambush.
When police operate radar or laser in an instant-on “ambush” fashion, even though this is lethal, the officer must still spot your vehicle first. In that brief moment, you have the ability to spot them too and begin braking prior to them pulling the trigger. Every millisecond counts, so the sooner you are prepared, the more time you will have to your favor.
In some states, police often hide on the shoulder right after an overpass. In Pennsylvania, where the state police are the only ones permitted to operate radar and only from a stationery position, patrol vehicles are often positioned immediately after an overpass with their rear-facing radar antenna sticking out. In other states, some officers will hand-hold police laser guns from hidden positions like this.
Operating police radar, police laser, and time-distance speed measurement equipment can also take place from the on-ramp or from an overpass. In the case of the on-ramp, a cruiser can easily be parked quite a distance away from the highway at the beginning of the on-ramp for targeting vehicles from the rear. For them, this can be like shooting fish in a barrel.
Referring back to Tip #1, grow eyes in the back of your head and be sure to scan the sides of the road immediately after passing an overpass. You may be surprised at how often you can avoid a speeding ticket this way, because the police can’t measure your speed from the side of your vehicle with radar or laser. They need you to be far enough down the road before they can get an accurate speed reading from the rear of your vehicle giving you increased odds of avoiding a speeding ticket.
Tip #3: Use the “sling-shot” effect.
This tip is especially important when you are driving at night–the time when you are most vulnerable at getting a speeding ticket. What exactly is the slight-shot effect you ask?
I’ve coined the expression to describe a driving technique when the roadway is lightly traveled–which also makes you more vulnerable to an ambush–pick a vehicle ahead of you after you have just passed another vehicle–and drive at an increased speed until you reach that vehicle. Wait to spot the next vehicle farther ahead and repeat the technique.
What you are doing is essentially letting each vehicle be a “rabbit” or “blocker” for brief periods of time. If they come across a hidden patrol vehicle, watch for those brake lights and be prepared in advance.
While many speeders like to use (and recommend using) a rabbit for extended periods of time–that is another speeding vehicle ahead to run interference–I’ve personally never cared for doing such things and as a general rule, I refuse to do so.
First, while it may be effective, I frankly think of it as a cowards way of driving. If you’ve got the minerals to drive fast, then you shouldn’t need to rely on anyone else taking the risk.
Second, at least in my experiences, other potential rabbits rarely drive at the speeds that I feel comfortable with.
Of course, there are exceptions to any rule and I have a couple.
There are times that I have driven fast following another vehicle ahead, but I have also switched positions, to share the risks. When done in a cooperative spirit, this can be a fun thing to do.
The other time I recommend using a rabbit is when your rabbit is a police patrol vehicle. I have found that police generally cruise the highway at speeds over the posted limit by as much as 15-20 or even 30mph. They set a nice example and actually I am thankful that they do, because other vehicles around them tend to drive overly slow which would really make for unnecessary traffic congestion if they merely drove the speed limit.
Police also tend to hang themselves out in the left lane for extended periods of time, even when there is no one to pass–another fine example. So when I follow them, I will do so from the right lane as much as I can and at a distance that is not too close to merit more attention than is desirable.
However, keep in mind that some patrol vehicles are equipped with radar that can be used while their vehicles are in motion and which can be directed back at you with a flick of a switch. I have rarely observed this to happen, but I once encountered a state trooper in New Mexico who used this technique heavily. Fortunately I was driving with a Valentine 1 radar detector, so I immediately knew what his game was.
Tip #4: Use the Smartphone App Waze.
If you are like most people today, you have a smartphone. Fortunately for the most savvy drivers, there is an indispensable tool to avoid speeding tickets and it’s available at no cost to you. The app is called Waze. Waze is a “crowdsourcing” app, now owned by Google, that allows drivers to mark in real-time spotted speed traps on a map. These marked locations will appear on your phone with an alert “police reported ahead.”
If you ever drove in the days when CB radios were popular, you’ll remember listening to CB channels that truckers used for their “smokey reports.” Waze is far better than trucker reports ever were, since every owner of a smartphone has the ability to alert other drivers to the presence of police.
In fact, Waze has been so effective at reducing the incidents of speeding tickets, that a number of traffic patrol departments are complaining (to Google) to remove the feature. Waze has a substantial user base, which means no matter what road you travel, you’ll likely see reports from other “Wazers” near by.
Beyond merely identifying police, Waze also is GPS navigation app and can also be used to locate points of interest, gas stations, and perhaps most importantly, road hazards ahead (like debris on the road). Having advanced knowledge of these hazards will make you a safer driver.
There is nothing more gratifying when you are the first to notify others around you of a hidden police trap. The thumbs-up and thanks from other drivers that you receive is a wonderful thing–knowing that you helped someone else avoid a speeding ticket. Every serious driver interested in avoiding speeding tickets should be driving with Waze.
Tip #5: Own and know how to use a good radar detector.
For many drivers, following the first four tips may be sufficient, especially for those that don’t stray to far beyond the posted speed limit. But for those serious drivers or for drivers who frequently drive long distances, investing in a capable radar detector is a smart move. Radar detectors can vary a lot in performance, overall capability, and price. My recommendation is to purchase one of the best radar detectors you can afford. There are very good radar detectors at a variety of price points.
Owning a good radar detector, though, is not enough, however. Knowing how to drive with a radar detector is actually more important than owning a particular model, no matter how good it is. To know how to properly use a radar detector, you have to know the types of police radar and police laser that are in use where you drive.
I have a saying: if you are not comfortable speeding without a radar detector, you shouldn’t be comfortable speeding with one. Remember, radar detectors, are just tools to supplement your situational awareness, not replace it. If you solely rely on your radar detector to save you, sooner or later, you are going to lose.
The reason? If you radar detector suddenly goes off with a full-alert, this means you’ve likely encountered instant-on radar or police laser and your speed is already measured. Speed readings typically take place in fractions of a second. By the time you react, it may already be too late.
A long time ago, I participated in a cross-country race, not too unlike the Cannonball Run. There was an empty stretch of highway where my navigator and I drove well in the triple digits. Even though my vehicle was loaded to the gill with radar detectors and other countermeasures, I realized that I needed to drive “ahead” of them.
In other words, I drove as if I didn’t have any at all. This tactic turned out to be crucial, because at one point of the drive, after I had been driven at high rate of speed for nearly an hour, I spotted what looked like an approaching patrol vehicle way in the distance on the opposite side of the highway.
Keeping in mind the combined closure rate was nearly four miles per minute! Had I waited for my radar detector to alert, I would have certainly been toast and would have likely spent some time overnight, complements of the state police.
Fortunately, I drove ahead of my equipment, and managed to brake sufficiently to get my speed down to merely 20mph over the posted speed limit (which was 90mph) before the patrol vehicle shot me with instant-on Ka-band police radar. Yes I received a speeding ticket, but the outcome was much more favorable than what could have been.
Tip #6: Be familiar with what types of speed enforcement are used on your travel routes.
In the early days of traffic enforcement, there were primarily two types of police radar used to instantly clock speeds. Today there is much more technology being used including an increase in the number of radar bands in use, radar used from both stationery positions and moving patrol vehicles, police lidar, automated photo speed enforcement, and redlight cameras. If drive across more than a couple of states, you may encounter all of these speed enforcement technologies.
Tip #7: If you are going to speed, do it reasonably and prudently.
What this means is to not drive carelessly, recklessly, or otherwise like a selfish idiot. It’s a fact of life, there are other drivers on the road and the majority of them don’t speed appreciably. Share the road responsibly and safely. There are going to be times that you simply won’t be able to drive faster than the flow of the traffic. Be patient, eventually the road will open up.
Marry the left lane – Use the passing lane for just that, passing. After you’ve completed your passing, move over to the right. It’s not only the considerate thing to do, but will also put you at a lower risk for being tagged as a speeder. Speeders tend to hang themselves out in the left lane for extended periods of time and that’s what the police expect. Don’t make it easier on them. It’s also very inconsiderate to others wishing to pass you.
Follow vehicles too closely in your haste – If you do, you’ll increase your chances of rear-ending the vehicle ahead of you in the event they have to brake suddenly. Also, if you are ever pulled over for speeding, if you happen to be following another driver too closely you may also be cited for driving too closely to another vehicle.
Quickly weave in and out of the left lane – Not only does this increase the risk of accidents, police are also trained to look for drivers who drive aggressively. Remember, if you are speeding, other drivers may miscalculate the time it will take them to make a lane change ahead of you, not realizing that you are closing upon them faster than they may otherwise expect. Be patient.
Stay in the right lane, except when passing.
Always signal your intentions.
If you are driving smoothly, you are likely driving safely. Even if you get caught speeding, if you are observed to be doing it reasonably, your chances for leniency increase significantly.
Tip #8: Drive protected with the Laser Veil Stealth Coating.
Police laser accounts for 20-25% of the 125,000 or so speeding tickets issued daily. That’s a significant percentage, amounting to about 30,000 traffic citations a day! Since all laser speed readings happen without advanced warning and occur nearly instantaneously, using Veil will not only will you buy you precious additional time to react and safely slow down, it can also help protect your vehicle from being identified from automated photo enforcement and license plate readers. You can learn about this technology here.
We’ll be publishing another article on how to fight and successfully beat tickets or other traffic citations, in the unfortunate event you ever receive one.
Drive safe, drive smart, drive ticket free.