Valuable Lessons (and Profit) from Speeding Tickets

Some people go their entire lives without ever getting a speeding ticket.

Others, including me, experience the heart-racing panic of being pulled over by the flashing lights just a week after getting our driver’s licenses.

The story of my first speeding ticket involves a new job and a delivery truck, but I’ll get to that in a moment. First, I want to discuss the business of speeding tickets and a new motivation behind giving them out.

A recent article on MSN Money dove into the topic of city and state governments using speeding tickets as a way to generate revenue in sliding economies. It went so far as to say that in some places, traffic police are essentially tax collectors… with badges and guns.

The article gave examples in Ohio, Michigan, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Georgia of governments increasing fines or adding “assessments” to speeding tickets in efforts to make up for lost revenue and unbalanced budgets. It all adds up to millions of extra dollars from the pockets of speeders.

So it makes sense to hypothesize that as the economy sinks, the number of people who escape speeding tickets does, too. No one is immune, whether driving a BMW M3 GTS or a 3-speed Dodge Ram delivery truck.

Which brings me back to my story:

I was 16 when I received my first speeding ticket. I had just gotten my license and a new job delivering mattresses for a local company. One day, in that old Dodge truck, I got going pretty fast on a downhill slope (no way the truck was capable of speeding on an incline) and was pulled over for exceeding the 35-mph speed limit.

I was terrified to take my speeding ticket to my boss (who also happened to be my dad) and explain what happened. Luckily for me, my dad was cool and just told me to try and get the fine reduced in traffic court.

I remember sitting in court waiting for my turn before the judge, watching person after person try to talk their way out of their tickets. By the time my turn came up, I had decided to be honest.

The tired judge looked at me and simply said, “What’s your story, son?”

I said, “I did it. The officer caught me speeding. I’m sorry.”

The judge smiled at me, nodded, and said, “Thank you for your honesty. Don’t worry about paying your fine.”

To this day I remember that. It taught me a lesson about being honest and owning up when I make mistakes, whether behind the wheel or not.

Though in this economy, I don’t think even brutal honesty will convince cash-strapped courts to throw out a lucrative speeding ticket.

What were you driving when you got your first speeding ticket? Or are you one of the lucky ones who have escaped one… so far?


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  1. My recent experience was to get a warning from an officer for driving 40 on a road that had been marked 35mph but with “temporary” on top of the sign for at least 3 years. All the surrounding roads were marked 45mph, which qualifies the road as a speed trap under Michigan law. I filed a complaint with the Michigan State Police, and they ordered the speed limit signs removed for one year while they studied the speeds to find the 85 percentile speed, which is the speed that 85 percent of drivers go when there is no posted limit. In this case, it was 45mph, which (not surprisingly) is the posted speed of the other roads in the area. The speed limit is now posted at 45.

    About 20 years ago I had a run-in with a fairly famous local speed trap cop in Warren, Michigan at about 5:30 AM. In this case he was radaring from a church’s parking lot, and I got an affidavit from the pastor that the cop did not have permission to use the lot. The judge tossed the ticket because cops are not allowed to hide on private property without the owner’s permission.

    All my other run ins with speeding tickets didn’t up as well for me. My philosophy now is that they won’t write you a speeding ticket if you’re not speeding, which has worked so far.

  2. “He invited me into the cruiser and showed off a front passenger area filled with black boxes and all kinds of detector-detection equipment. “We can get their signals even when they’re turned off.”

    As an electrical engineer, I can tell you that it is physically impossible to build a detector for a radar detector that is turned off. Radar detector detectors (RDD) work by sensing the oscillator leakage from your radar detector, and when it is off, there is no leakage. What the cop was doing was “blipping” you to see if you would admit to having one in the car. Worked, didn’t it? (To be fair, he/she might have been detecting one in a car near you.) If you were driving in a fairly congested area, an RDD can’t accurately pinpoint the source of the trigger (if it was even a radar detector, which it commonly isn’t) and can’t claim any reasonable probable cause to search the vehicle if you tell him you don’t have a radar detector.

  3. I’ve had a bunch over the years but have never gotten busted on points. One memorable time I was driving my Acura Legend coupe around the speed limit–nice car, very smooth power, very cool–and a Virginia state trooper pulled me over.

    I had a hidden radar detector mounted under the hood, and it was actually turned off. The cop said he was giving me a ticket for having one in the car (they were/are illegal in Va.), and I said, “How did you know? It wasn’t even running!”

    He invited me into the cruiser and showed off a front passenger area filled with black boxes and all kinds of detector-detection equipment. “We can get their signals even when they’re turned off.”

    Some days you just can’t win.

  4. I had the same dread and fear when I saw the flashing lights in my mirror- Scared me so badly I took off and tried to evade the officer by slipping down a side street and parking—–ok, looking back it was totally stupid! Officer had no troubles finding me and proceeded to throw the book at me– i lost my license for 30 days and had to pay a 50 dollar fine (this was 1973 dollars!)

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