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:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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".
- 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.
- 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.