Last updated: 03/30/2003

In this writeup, I will attempt to impart a bit of wisdom to those of you who like to go fast but do not like getting speeding tickets. Since I have only ever driven in the United States, this node will be very US-centric. Also, please note that traffic laws differ from state to state, but I'll do my best to be as accurate as possible.

So, how do you speed without getting a speeding ticket? Well, first of all, the title of this node is a little misleading. I guarantee you that if you speed, you will eventually get a ticket. It may take months, years, even decades, but sooner or later, you'll get caught. The point of this node is to help you avoid being caught for as long as possible.

Simple rules for avoiding a ticket:

  1. Don't speed all the time.
    The more you speed, the more likely you are to get caught. Try to only speed when you need to get somewhere quickly or occasionally for fun if you're on a particularly exciting road.

  2. Invest in a good radar detector.
    Most speeding tickets these days are based on readings from police radar. While a radar detector won't make you invisible to radar, it will give you advance warning when there's a radar unit in use nearby and allow you to slow down to avoid getting caught. Don't be cheap when buying a detector -- you get what you pay for. The best detectors on the market right now are the Escort Passport 8500 (~$300) and the Valentine One (~$400).

  3. Don't speed when you're the only car on the road.
    Even if you have a radar detector, speeding when you are the only car on the road is just asking for a ticket. Many cops nowadays use "instant-on" radar, which allows them to keep their radar gun off (but warmed up). When they see you, they point and shoot, and by the time your radar detector has a chance to detect anything the cop's already got a reading on your speed. If you're near other traffic, there's a very good chance that your detector will be able to detect the short bursts that the cop fires at other cars. But by yourself, you'll have no warning.

    Furthermore, being the only car on the road makes you stand out more. Even if a cop on a sidestreet or offramp isn't using radar, he could see you fly by and decide to pace you with his lights off. This'll get you ticketed.

  4. Don't speed over blind hills or around blind curves.
    Radar detectors cannot detect radar through hills or around curves unless the radar waves bounce off of something. And you can't see around curves or over hills to determine whether there's a cop there or not. I was once nabbed by a cop sitting just over a hill with instant-on radar, and I kicked myself for days. Be careful - those cops are sneaky.

  5. Keep your eyes peeled.
    Even the best modern radar and laser detectors cannot give you more than a split-second's warning when they're hit with LIDAR (police laser). LIDAR is being used more and more, and is much harder to detect than radar since the beams are very focused. Furthermore, LIDAR works at the speed of light, so the reading is nearly instantaneous, giving you no time to slow down. Luckily for us speeders, LIDAR has some disadvantages as well.

    LIDAR must be aimed very precisely. The beam must hit a reflective surface on your car. According to weasello (whose dad is a Canadian cop), cops most often aim at your license plates because they're the most reflective part of your car, but they can also get a reading off pretty much any other surface (it just takes 2-3 seconds longer). I had also thought that LIDAR was less effective in rain or fog, but according to weasello, it works just fine. So watch out.

    Jurph kindly pointed out that, for around $20, you can buy a license plate cover that will refract LIDAR beams. This may buy you some extra time to slow down. Be warned, however, that I've heard of people being pulled over and even ticketed for using these types of covers, since most states have laws prohibiting license plate covers that obscure the view of the plate.

  6. Drive in the slow lane whenever possible.
    If you're on a road with two or more lanes traveling in the direction you're headed, always try to be in the slow lane. In the US and other right-hand drive countries, this is the right lane; in other countries it's the left. People in the fast lanes tend to be driving faster (duh), so cops generally watch those lanes. They also tend to target the fast lanes with radar and LIDAR.

    note: weasello says Canadian cops tend to target the right lanes, rather than the left, because speeders in the right lane are easier to pull over and also easier to charge, since the right lane is considered the "slow lane".

  7. If you see a car of any kind parked along the side of the road, SLOW DOWN.
    As I said before, cops are sneaky. The cop with the radar may not always be in a squad car. Often, the radar cop will be in a very innocent-looking car (i.e., an old pickup truck, broken-down van, etc.) taking readings and radioing ahead to motorcycle cops who are actually pulling people over. Be careful.

  8. Get a highway hero
    Pelle pointed out that it's often useful to follow someone who is speeding -- I can't believe I left this out when I first wrote this writeup. This is probably the single best way to avoid getting a ticket.

    It works best if you're traveling a long distance on a single stretch of highway. Basically, you want to find someone who's exceeding the speed limit, and follow them. Don't follow closely -- keep a quarter mile or so between you, but keep your highway hero in sight at all times. If you start to get close to him, he's slowing down and you should do the same. Your hero will act as your scout. He'll trip the speedtraps and instant-on radar before you do, and if you pay attention you'll have early warning.

    I once drove from Seattle to Portland on I-5, late at night, at an average speed of about 105 mph. I wouldn't have dared to go that fast, even with my trusty radar detector, except that I had an excellent highway hero who apparently wasn't as cautious as I was. Luckily for him, he didn't get caught, but even if he had, I would've had more than enough time to slow down before the cops saw me. It made for a nice quick trip.

If, by some wicked twist of fate, you end up getting pulled over, see the excellent writeups at How to Get Out of a Ticket for some tips on how to get off with nothing more than a friendly warning. And if, by another wicked twist of fate, you can't weasel your way out of the ticket, for God's sake go to court! It is vitally important that you do not just mail in your fine. If you go to court, your chances of getting a decreased fine or even getting off scott-free are much better than if you don't. In most states, all charges will be dropped if the cop doesn't show up (this has actually happened to me). Even if the cop does show up, you may be able to convince the judge to be lenient and knock a couple bucks off the fine. Believe me, going to court is always worth it.

weasello says most cops in Canada have gone to using LIDAR rather than radar. So if you're driving in Canada, you should probably be extra careful. In my experience, most cops in the U.S. (at least the parts of it I've driven in) still use radar, although LIDAR is becoming more and more common.

This guide is by no means complete; I'll add more stuff to it as it occurs to me. If you have any suggestions or corrections, feel free to /msg me.

In my home state of Illinois, at least, I've noticed on the speeding tickets I've gotten that different penalties are levied if you're going less than ten miles per hour over the speed limit than if you're going more than ten mph. I've also noticed that as long as we're within ten mph of the speed limit, no one I've ever been driving with has ever gotten pulled over.

I've also been told that it's fairly commonly known that the speedometer in any given car can be up to ten mph off, which is probably the reason for the different penalties. I imagine that traffic cops know that if you're ticketed for a less-than-ten-mph violation, you could fairly argue that your speedometer was inaccurate, and don't bother with tickets unless they have a quota to fill that month.

In other words, if you're just speeding casually, stick to about nine mph over the limit.

In Australia, it is reasonably safe to go about 10km/h faster than the speed limit. I have been doing this for about 3 years now and have not gotten a single speeding ticket.

mblase is probably right in saying the speedometer can be slightly off. Between the error in the measurement of the axle speed and the variation in the tyre radius (think different tyres and tyre wear). Given that and the error inherent in the laser or radar gun that the policeman (or woman) is using to measure your speed, I figure up to 10% error is reasonably acceptable. I tend to round up, so I end up going 70 in 60 zones and 80 in 70 zones ... but up to 125 in 110 zones ... :-)

My other observation has been that a significant number of cars indeed go slightly faster than the speed limit on the major roads. I have found that, on 3 lane highways, most of the cars in the middle lane are often going at 10 above the speed limit and it is probably a reasonable assumption that the police are not going to give speeding tickets to the majority of the cars. Leave the slowpokes in the slow lane behind and follow the speed of the cars in the middle lane if they're going not much more than 10% above the speed limit, I say. It will be the speed freaks in the overtaking lane that get caught.


Having said all that, this tactic does not work against speed cameras, which are often unforgiving and will catch you (at least here in Sydney) for going more than 5 km/h above the posted limit in their area. Thankfully, I have always known the speed cameras to be obvious and to have signposts warning of their presence anyway.

According to a friend of mine, the static speed cameras found on motorways in the UK can be beaten very easily. If you drive through the speed trap at more than 70mph (the speed limit on British motorways), the camera takes a photograph of your car, including registration plate. After a short time (less than a second, I think), the camera takes a second photograph, and then, using markings on the road to gauge the position of the car at the two instances, calculates the speed you were doing.

What if you're out of frame by the time the second photograph is taken? The camera will not have two images of your car from which to calculate your exact speed. Now, its bloody obvious that you were speeding, but without an exact figure for your speed, the police have no real, admissable evidence against you.

I haven't seen the numbers, but apparently, the speed you need to be traveling in order to achieve this is 153mph. The car I usually drive does not even go up that far on the speedometer...

Please pretend you have just read a very well-worded disclaimer about not condoning use of excessive speed yadda yadda yadda...

Anyone with more information, ie: figures for speed camera timing, reports on incidents of this technique being employed or hell even personal experience, please /msg me!

A friend of mine did this to get out of a ticket:

When the cop pulled her over she grabbed her handy water bottle and dumped half of it in her lap then stashed the bottle under the seat. When the cop came up to the window she did her best, "I'm just an innocent but very embarrased cute girl" face while she turned red. She explained to the officer she was trying to make it to the next exit due to a feminine/urinary/pregnacy problem and that she was very very embarassed.

She got off with no warning, not even a verbal caution.

There's another way to do this which is perhaps even more effective, though not always possible.

Simply put, find a police car which is travelling in your general direction, and follow it. DO NOT pass the police car under any circumstances. Police cars often speed anyway, though not as much as many other motorists. But you'll get there a little faster anyway.

This method works for the following reasons:

  • You are not going faster than the officer. If by some chance the officer does attempt to pull you over, you can simply state that you thought it was okay, since you weren't going any faster than he/she was. This is not generally effective in getting out of a ticket, but will at least put the officer off-guard.
  • The officer is in front of you. This makes it much harder to actually pull you over. If he turns his lights on, you can always say you assumed he was going for someone in front of him (which is nearly always true anyway). The officer can always shift lanes and drop in behind you, but few will take the trouble to do this.
  • If your paths diverge, you know the officer cannot be following you. The reason is obvious: you know which path he took, and it was not the same as yours.

Of course, the best way to avoid a speeding ticket is not to speed. The second is to be really, really lucky. But these aren't always possible, so we're left to these other methods.

If you're determined to exceed the speed limit, the best way to defeat both speed cameras and laser detectors is with a stealth license plate cover.

The stealth cover is transparent, but deflects the signal so that a reading can't be made. License plates are usually made with a crystalline structure on the surface so that these signals will bounce back to the detector regardless of the angle, so this is the area police aim for. The stealth cover does not allow the signal to reach the license plate, so the signal does not reflect back to the camera or radar gun.

Of course if the camera or radar gun is directly behind or in front of you - you might still be SOL. The cover might also be illegal in your jurisdiction.

In addition to all the above, it helps greatly to drive an innocuous color and type of vehicle. An old white Chevy pickup that had been a water department vehicle served me well in this capacity. The truck had a head-ache rack, side toolboxes and a police spot-light. Police never gave me a second look. It was very stealth. I have also had similar success driving at speed in an old black Mercedes 300SD. It is something a grandpa would drive. Police just seem to look past it or through it as though it was not there.

The exact opposite of this has been experienced while driving various sports cars irrespective of their color, year or make.

YMMV

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