How to Avoid a Traffic Ticket

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Tens of millions of such tickets are issued each year, raking in billions of dollars in fines for state and local coffers. For the motorist, the cost of a traffic ticket does not end there, though. Even one speeding ticket can raise your insurance premiums for several years, and multiple violations can push your rates through the roof. Fortunately, many tickets can be avoided with a few simple guidelines.

Steps

  1. Avoid driving. The only sure way to avoid a traffic ticket is to avoid driving, or at least to cut down on it. Stroll or bike around the neighborhood, or hop on the bus to get to work. Sure, there are better ways to stay ticket-free, but none that will save you this much money in gas, insurance, and upkeep.
  2. Know and obey all the rules of the road. Its pretty simple: do not break traffic laws, and you wont get ticketed. Problem is, a lot of people really do not know as much about the laws as they think, and ignorance is no excuse. One particularly troublesome example is the default speed limit that applies, for instance, to all roads within a town unless otherwise specified. Traffic laws also vary from state to state and even from town to town, so do some research if you are driving away from home.
  3. Drive defensively. Aggressive or erratic driving can irritate other drivers and put you and others in danger. Even if you are not breaking any laws, weaving in and out of lanes and stopping or accelerating quickly can bring you unwanted attention from police.
  4. Do not stand out in a crowd. Let other vehicles and drivers attract an officers scrutiny while you drive nearly invisibly.
    • Maintain your vehicle. Cracked windshields, burnt-out taillights, and a whole host of other minor maintenance issues can get you a ticket.
    • Wear your seatbelt. Its the law pretty much everywhere, and an iron clad excuse for a sharp-eyed officer to pull you over.
    • Look attentive. Being the one in the pack with a cell phone cradled on your neck and a burger in the other hand is not a good thing.
    • If you are choosing, choose a plain-colored sedan with economy styling over a sporty-looking coupe with bright, eye-popping colors and/or customized appearance. There are lots of economical-looking little cars with snappy power-to-weight ratios and safe, excellent handling.
    • Do not cover your car in eye-catching stickers and/or controversial slogans, no matter how mad some politician makes you. A cop may be a big fan of the guy you loathe most.
    • Remove license plate frames and dealer stickers that identify you as being from out of town wherever else you go in your state. People who travel a long way are less likely to show up in court to dispute a ticket.
    • Do not drive a rolling pig sty. All windows should offer unobstructed views to the driver.
  5. Get a radar/laser detector. If you are intent on being a speed demon, a combination laser/radar detector can help you put the brakes on on time. Be careful, though: detectors are illegal to have in your vehicle in VA, Washington DC, US Military bases and in many countries . Theyre far from 100% effective, and if you do get pulled over, you wont earn any brownie points when the officer sees the detector.
  6. Stay out of the “fast lane.” Drivers in the “fast lane” (the left-most lane on U.S. multi-lane highways) are more likely to be ticketed not only because theyre typically driving faster, but also because of the psychological element: they appear to be going faster simply because theyre in the “fast lane”. In addition, many jurisdictions have laws that require you to drive in the right lane unless you are passing, so you can be ticketed for cruising in the left lane.
  7. Go with the flow of traffic. If you are going to speed, you are less likely to be ticketed if everybody else is doing it. (However, if you are pulled over exceeding the speed limit, "going with the flow of traffic" cannot be used as an excuse for receiving a speeding ticket.) Its not uncommon in many areas for the posted speed limit to be something of a joke. If everybodys going 80 in a 70, chances are you can get away with it—in fact, if you are going significantly slower you may be a hazard—but if you treat that as a license to go 85, guess wholl get nabbed.
  8. Watch for police and potential ambushes. Constantly scan the road ahead for parked cars and police cruisers on the road. You cant just look for the classic police car look, though; police everywhere are mixing up their fleets, so that SUV or sports car up ahead may be trouble.
  9. Check your rearview mirror often to minimize the chance that a patrol car will sneak up on you. Also if an Officer pulls in behind you at night with his or her headlights off chances are that he/she is about to pull you over so be prepared to stop and find a safe place to do so preferably somewhere public like a fast food restraunt parking lot if you can.
  10. Remember that you cant always see police along the road. Its prudent to slow down a bit before potential hiding spots such as exit ramps, blind curves, or stands of trees, and be especially wary around potential speed traps, such as stretches of road undergoing work or places where the posted speed limit decreases. When you see a reduction in the speed limit, make sure to slow to the new limit before you reach the sign: police know this is one of the best place to find speeders.
  11. Watch out for speed cameras. More and more localities are adopting photo radar, a system which automatically photographs the license plate and drivers face of a vehicle which the radar determines is speeding. These systems are sometimes mounted inside a van which will be parked alongside the road, or they are often mounted permanently at trouble spots, such as intersections that have a lot of accidents.
  12. Cameras are also used to photograph vehicles that run red lights or travel in the carpool lane without passengers. You can usually see these cameras if you look hard enough, especially if you travel the same route frequently.
  13. You may be able to find the location of permanent cameras in your area by doing an internet search or using the site in the external links.
  14. Pay attention to clues from other motorists, especially truckers. If you see brake lights up ahead, especially on that car that just blew by you, there may be a speed trap just out of your view, or a radar detector may be alerting the driver in front of you.
  15. It pays to watch the behavior of truckers, in particular, because truckers down the road can use the radio to warn those behind them.
  16. Find someone going roughly the same speed as you and use them as a "guinea pig", i.e. let them get a good distance ahead of you and then watch them for any sudden stops or other behavior that may indicate a speed trap ahead.
  17. Motorists driving toward you may flash their headlights to warn of police ahead. Of course people slow down suddenly or flash their headlights for other reasons too, but you may be able to avoid an accident if you heed these signs and slow down.
  18. Get to know the roads you regularly travel. Police frequently choose the same hiding places over and over again, so make a mental note when you see a cruiser parked along the road and make sure you are following the speed limit next time you come to that point.
  19. Beware multiple cruisers. If you see another motorist stopped by a police cruiser, do not assume the coast is clear. Slow down to the speed limit, and stay that way for another mile or two. Its increasingly common for police to set up speed traps with several officers clustered in a short span of road.
  20. Be polite if you get pulled over. If you do get pulled over, you may still be able to get away with a warning if you are polite.
  21. *When the officer comes to your window, greet him or her with respectful words, such as "Good evening, officer."
  22. *Do not get into arguments or act irritated or belligerent, and do not make dumb excuses.
  23. *If youve already broken a traffic law, you cant make things any better by being a jerk, but be nice and you may get some pity.
    • Make the police officer feel safe if you get pulled over. Police officers have a dangerous job, and they know that any routine traffic stop can turn life-threatening. If you can put an officer at ease it make his or her job a little easier, he or she may thank you for it by letting you off with a warning.
    • Pull over when you see the police officer signal for you to pull over. Look for a safe area where the officer can stand beside your car and not risk his own life with passing traffic.
  24. *Pull into a parking lot if you can; but always signal to the officer to show that you arent avoiding him. If you must pull over to the side of the road, the right shoulder is almost always safer for both you and the officer.
    • Park your vehicle so that you cannot drive forward (pull right up to a wall for example). Then the officer can park right behind you without worrying that you will try to drive away and escape.
    • Turn off the car, and possibly remove the keys from the ignition. If it is nighttime, turn on as many interior lights as possible.
    • Remain in the car. Do not move to leave the car at any time during the stop unless you are asked to do so.
    • Sit still with your seatbelt on, and place your hands on the top of your steering wheel, in plain sight. Do not fidget around before the officer approaches the vehicle or at any time during the stop.
  25. *The officer will request your drivers license, registration and insurance card. Leave your hands on top of the steering wheel. Describe to the officer where the papers are, and ask permission to get them. When the officer permits it, move slowly and deliberately to retrieve the documents for the officer. Avoid sudden movements that may make the officer feel you are reaching for a weapon.
  26. Avoid admissions of guilt (or not). When the officer asks you if you know why you were pulled over, never admit to anything if you intend to later fight the ticket.
  27. *If you do get a ticket, your admission can be used against you in court.
  28. *If you think you might be able to get away with the warning, you might try being completely honest. The officer may appreciate your honesty and might be more likely to let you off with a warning. Its a tough choice to make, but do your best to analyze the situation and the officers demeanor, and hopefully you will make the right decision.
  29. Contest a ticket. If you cant avoid a ticket, consider fighting it through the legal system. Do not fight with the police officer, though; that will get you nowhere.

Tips

  • Traffic enforcement cameras can sometimes be detected with radar detectors. In most places, if your face is obscured (with a hat and sunglasses, for example) when your picture is taken, you can get the ticket dismissed in court. A number of legal challenges have been posed to automatic ticketing systems, many successfully, so if you are unlucky enough to be caught by one of these systems, you have a good chance of beating the citation in court.
  • Do not come up with any lame excuses; the police officer has heard them all, and some of those excuses can easily turn into additional tickets. For instance, claiming you were only coasting down a hill is actually an additional infraction in many jurisdictions. Distracted Driving is also a growing new category of potential bonus-offenses.
  • If you do know a local police officer, you may try using the officers name casually in the conversation. Theres an outside chance the officer who stopped you may give you a break. Always thank the officer whose name you used. The police officers discuss these things at the base.
  • If you have a medical emergency and really do need to get to the hospital fast, continue to show the police officer respect, but request the officers assistance to get to the hospital quickly.
  • Remember, the police officer is doing the job you want him or her to do. You may not like that you are on the receiving end of his or her duties, but they are important duties.
  • Make sure beforehand that your drivers license is with you and your valid proof of insurance and registration are up to date and in your glove box for easy access.
  • Try to look as sad as possible. Do not say any of your problems - just look sad. It just may be enough to get you off with a warning.
  • If you live in an area that has special cards to get out of a ticket also in some parts of the US they are known as a PBA card then keep it with you. DO NOT hand it directly to the officer but keep it under your license when you hand it to the officer.
  • You may well be able to fight your ticket successfully in traffic court! Just by showing up indicates you are more responsible than those who do not. Dress well, a suit if possible. Be prepared to argue your side of the case without emotion and with as much supporting material as you can provide. Depending on the judge and the jurisdiction, the judge may give you some leniency. If not, well, you were probably guilty anyway!
  • Do not lie. Police officers do this many times every day and your body language will probably give you away.

Warnings

  • The information in this article is not legal advice, and neither wikiHow nor the contributors to this article condone breaking any traffic laws. The best way to avoid getting a ticket is to drive within the law.
  • Being rude, obnoxious or demanding never helps your situation. Be respectful. Try to chat with the officer and be polite.
  • Do not threaten the police officer with any comments, like "Ill see you in court."
  • Be careful with trying to flirt your way out of a ticket. Some officers will play along, while others will be offended and come down harsher on you for this gamble.

Related wikiHows

  • How to Avoid a Speeding Ticket
  • How to Help a Friend Who Gets Arrested in the Middle of the Night
    • How to Fight a Parking Ticket
    • How to Avoid Annoying Other Drivers
    • Sources and Citations

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