As far as day-ruiners go, few things sting as much as getting slapped with a speeding ticket. For starters, you have to pay the initial fine (generally between $100 and $150). Then, points get added to your license, which means your insurance premiums can skyrocket. And on top of all that, getting pulled over in the first place is often a time-consuming, cortisol-spiking affair. Still, they’re an astonishingly common citation. Police officers issue north of 40 million speeding tickets each year—generating an estimated $4 billion—so you can all but bet on getting caught in the crosshairs of a radar some day.
But even if you’ve clocked an miles-per-hour over the limit, you can still steer clear of a courtroom. In some cases, police officers might let you off the hook on-the-spot, while in others, speeding is actually allowed in accordance with the law. Of course, the best and only for-certain way to avoid a ticket is to not speed in the first place. But if you do find yourself in that unfortunate situation, these tips might help you save some serious dough. And if your need for speed simply can’t be denied, at least learn the 10 Ways to Speed Without Getting a Ticket.
You Really Need to Go to the Bathroom Immediately
This excuse is a bit of a long shot, but sometimes police officers can be very sympathetic to drivers who are clearly in desperate need of a bathroom. But that’s the trick: you have to clearly be in desperate need of a bathroom. Break a sweat. Have a panicked look in your eyes. Affect a tremble in your voice. If you very flippantly toss out a “I kinda have to pee,” that’s really not going to cut it.
In addition, how fast you were going and where you were driving also makes a difference. According to Redditor and police officer ChaosConsumesMe, they’re more likely to let you off the hook if you’re speeding down a side street than through a school zone, for example.
You Gave a Friendly Wave
If you see a cop catching you in the act of going a little over the speed limit, immediately give a friendly wave and slow down. This might work in one of two ways—the cop might think they know you and let it slide, or they might interpret it as you signaling that you didn’t realize you were speeding. (Thanks for pointing it out; now you will drive more slowly.)
Most local police aren’t particularly interested in issuing tickets all day long, so sometimes even an action as small as this is enough to guard against being pulled over in the first place. And for more on driving, here are the 6 Genius Driving Secrets That Could Save Your Life.
It Was for Safety
If you have to speed to avoid an accident, that can sometimes be a legal justification for speeding. However, if that’s going to be your rationale, speeding had to have been your only option to prevent harm or injury. In other words, you can’t use this excuse if slamming the breaks or slowing down would have also prevented an accident. Laws vary from state to state, but you can check your state’s penal code to see if there’s a necessity or choice-of-evils provision in the code you can use for your defense if these were the circumstances under which you were speeding.
For example, according to the penal code in the state of New York, speeding is justified when “such conduct is necessary as an emergency measure to avoid an imminent public or private injury which is about to occur by reason of a situation occasioned or developed through no fault of the actor, and which is of such gravity that, according to ordinary standards of intelligence and morality, the desirability and urgency of avoiding such injury clearly outweigh the desirability of avoiding the injury sought to be prevented by the statute defining the offense in issue.” And if you’d like to feel safe on the road, you should know This Is the Most Dangerous Day of the Year to Drive.
The Cop Made You Do It
One valid excuse for speeding is that you were doing it to get out of the way for law enforcement. If you see a police car with lights flashing coming up behind you in the left lane, and you’re forced to speed up to pass the cars in the right lane and get out of the officer’s way, this is speeding caused by the actions of the police, so you could use the defense of private necessity to justify your speeding.
In a court ruling of State v. Brown, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin determined that, “where the violation of the speeding law is caused by the state itself through the actions of a law enforcement officer, we conclude that the public interest in allowing the violator to claim a defense outweighs the public interest in case of prosecution.”
You Requested a Warning
One thing people don’t think to do is request a warning instead of a ticket. Officer and Redditor YallCrackMeUp says that if you weren’t driving recklessly and ask politely, there’s a good chance you could drive away with a warning instead of a ticket. Remember, this doesn’t apply to highway patrolmen, so you’d probably be wasting your breath with them.
The Radar Was Wrong
If you were pulled over, and the cop says they determined you were speeding with radar, you might be able to use that to your advantage. Radar guns need to be calibrated frequently, and so it’s possible that the one the officer who pulled you over was using hadn’t been calibrated recently enough to be accurate. For instance, in State v. Helke, in Ohio, the defendant used this to his advantage on appeal to get out of a conviction for speeding.
You Were Going with the Flow
If all the cars driving around you were going over the speed limit, and driving at or below the speed limit would have been unsafe, saying that you were going with the flow of traffic could be a valid excuse for speeding. It depends on whether the state you’re driving in has absolute or presumed speeding laws.
Most states have absolute laws, where the speed limit is the limit, and if you were going 61 mph in a 60 mph zone, a ticket is justified. But in a state with presumed laws—like Texas or California—you can make the case that, though you were speeding, it was appropriate and even safe, given the traffic you were in.
It’s a Medical Emergency
It’s important to remember that the speed limit is the law, and there aren’t a lot of ways to get around it. So even if you’re shuttling, say, a woman in labor to the hospital, the law still applies.
Fortunately, most police officers will be understanding in the even of a medical emergency and let you drive away without a ticket. But it they still issue a ticket, be sure to keep whatever records you get from the doctor or hospital to take with you to argue your case, because a judge might be more understanding, since the so-deemed “justification of necessity” may also apply.
You Didn’t Know the Speed Limit
“Not knowing the speed limit” is actually the most-cited excuse drivers give when they get pulled over for speeding. Check the laws in your state, of course, but if there wasn’t a sign posted for you to see, this might be an excuse you can use to get out of a speeding ticket. However, it is worth noting that if you don’t know the speed limit, you’re supposed to assume the limit is the same as it statewide for that type of road.
So this won’t help you if you were going 80 mph, but if you were going 65 on the highway in an area that just happened to have a 55 mph speed limit, and you didn’t see a sign posted with that information, it could be a valid defense. And to learn how else laws vary from state to state, discover The Strangest Law in Every State.
They’ve Got the Wrong Driver
If you get pulled over because somebody spotted a car matching yours driving recklessly and speeding 30 minutes ago, then it could be very difficult for the police to prove that it was you who was actually driving unless somebody managed to snap a picture of you. Maintain your innocence and take it to court.
There Is No Excuse
A police officer answering a question about speeding on AskReddit said that honesty and courtesy go a long way towards not getting a ticket, and that copping an attitude is a great way to guarantee being written up. The point of a ticket is to correct a behavior, so if you admit responsibility right away and seem contrite—in addition to promising not to do it again—they probably won’t write you a ticket.
That said, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Speeding needs to be your only violation; if you’re not wearing your seat belt, or were looking at your phone, or your license is in bad standing, for instance, you’ll be busted on the spot. Also, if you get pulled over by highway patrol or a cop on a motorcycle, they’re probably going to write you a ticket. After all, that’s what most of what their job entails.
You Were Polite
A great way to avoid a ticket is to be very, very polite to the officer who pulls you over. Traffic stops are one of the most dangerous parts of being a cop, so anything you can do to show you understand that will help get the cop on your side. Police officer and Redditor Gecko20 offered up advice for how to appease a cop and possibly avoid a ticket that included turning on your overhead light, putting your hands on the steering wheel, asking for permission to grab your license, and looking straight ahead until the officer gets to your car. Then treat the officer like a fellow human being, and with any luck, they might not write you a ticket.
You’re Going to a Funeral
If you’re going a few miles per hour over the limit on the way to a funeral, you might be able to get out of getting a ticket, assuming you’re polite and not breaking any other laws. But definitely don’t put on a show like this if you aren’t going to a funeral. Ethically, that’s pretty gross, and if the cop somehow figures out or knows you’re lying, they can choose to take the time to look for all sorts of things to write you up for.
You Got Continuances … Lots of Continuances
If all else fails, and you have to take your ticket to court, befriend the court clerk and start requesting continuances. You want to get as many continuances as you reasonably can. The more time you can put between the date you got your ticket and your trial, the better your chances are.
First, it diminishes the officer’s memory of the incident, which helps your case. But it also increases the likelihood that the officer doesn’t show up to trial, which means your ticket could be thrown out of court and your problem is solved.
Beg for Mercy
Hey, if all else fails and you’re going to traffic court, sometimes the best defense is one of the oldest: Beg the court for mercy, says Massachusetts-based lawyer Geoffrey G. Nathan, a former prosecutor who specializes in speeding tickets. A first-time offender is ripe for leniency.
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