Let’s face it: no motorist on the face of this planet likes getting a ticket, yet a massive amount of them do. In fact, these days, a social scientist would probably be hard-pressed to find one whose track record of driving does not include a fine of some sort. However, there are several sure-fire strategies to avoid finding yourself in such a situation. They are all perfectly legal and have been recommended by experts in the field.
Who are these experts, you ask? We’ve consulted the online wisdom of three sources: one is common sense, i.e. what regular drivers have to say on avoiding fines in traffic; the second is a former traffic police officer, Mike Brucks; the third and perhaps most specialized source is Richard Diamond, The Washington Times managing editor and founder of online information portal TheNewspaper.com. The popular knowledge comes from reputed guide publisher Reader’s Digest. Brucks has been interviewed both by automotive publication Popular Mechanics, as well as by Time Magazine and he has previously discussed the increasing number of lawsuits against police departments for excessive ticketing. Last but not least, Diamond has been researching police ticketing tactics for the past decade or so. Let’s hear it from them, then, on the best ways to avoid getting a fine.
1. Be cooperative – to a certain extent
It might seem surprising, but Richard Diamond reminds drivers that they can and should exercise their Miranda rights. When pulled over by a patrol, they have the obligation to present their registration and license to drive. When it comes to motor vehicle insurance, laws differ across the United States, but it’s a good idea, by and large, to also have it prepared. Anything else can be kept under wraps and drivers are always free to invoke their right to remain silent. They can also invite the police officer involved to speak with the driver’s lawyer. As long as they maintain a polite and non-aggressive demeanor, they are likely to walk away without a fine; transgressors, on the other hand, “get the most tickets”, Diamond explains.
2. Be consistent
If you want to avoid getting a ticket, then admitting you had been speeding, when pulled over by the police, is going to annul all your chances at doing just that. As mentioned above, you should be polite and respectful, but there’s no point in rambling on about your potential violation of the traffic limit. Sarcasm and any glib comments are also not recommended, but, most importantly, you should never affirm you had been speeding. This would effectively annul any odds you might have had at contesting a potential ticket in court. Remember, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
3. Be inconspicuous
Both Diamond and the Reader’s Digest editors suggest that the appearance of one’s car plays an important factor in determining whether or not the driver is going to be fined. While the police officer advises those who drive luxury cars to keep a low profile, the magazine suggests paying attention to the state of the car itself, irrespective of make. Certain add-ons, such as anti-police bumper sticker or tinted windows are likely to increase your odds at being fined. At the same time, keeping your car clean and clutter-free are going to create an impression of trustworthiness for the driver.
4. Be aware
Richard Diamond advocates the importance of situational awareness when driving. He insists that motorists should try to be aware of their surroundings, i.e. traffic conditions to the best extent of their abilities. Thus, they will be less likely to continue speeding, even when everyone else around them has slowed down.
5. Be prepared
Nowadays, escaping the consequences of speeding has become virtually impossible, due to the numerous methods that the police implement in catching drivers who err. Diamond mentions the existence of moving and stationary radars, lidars, speed cameras, hidden cameras, VASCAR stopwatch calculators, as well as state-specific policies. He also mentions the fact that in some states, such as Vermont, courts will accept a police officer’s speed estimations as a valid enough reason for a ticket.
6. Be friendly
It might seem counterintuitive, but according to one former police officer, it’s a good idea to wave at the radars. Should they be manned by police, they will likely interpret the wave as an acknowledgment of the fact that you had been speeding up to that point. Waving and immediately proceeding to reduce your speed are likely to help you avoid a speeding ticket. Alternatively, the police officer might think you know him and act somewhat more leniently toward you. It’s a long shot, indeed, but you never know…
7. Be determined
If you have reason to believe that you have been unlawfully fined, you can always take your case to court. There are numerous precedents of suits which challenged the legality of a fine successfully. You can also challenge the chain of evidence brought against you, as was the case in 2009’s Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts. There is a Supreme Court decision issued in this trial, which essentially says that the technicians involved in analyzing speeding camera photos have to appear in court – otherwise, photo tickets cannot be used as evidence for fining a driver. This is based on the defendant’s right to face his accuser, as warranted by the Sixth Amendment of the US Constitution.
8. Be informed
Certain exceptions will help you avoid getting a traffic ticket. You can check if the radar that issued your ticket is properly calibrated, first by requesting manufacturer specs on the device through a Freedom of Information Act, and then by asking for a radar frequency check from the Police Department. Make sure the speed limits in your area were properly signaled, according to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. If you live in a state where this is allowed, use your cellphone to record the conversation you have with the officer that pulls you over. While this is not proper evidence in all states, in others the judge will let you walk away if there are any inconsistencies between your recording and the police report.