10 tips to avoid speeding tickets
(Photo: Steve Ross/Getty Images)
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By day, Diamond is the managing editor at The Washington Times. But by night, he is a relentless advocate for drivers. It started when he was 16 and got a speeding ticket from a California cop hiding in a speed trap. What Diamond considered an unfair tax and nasty constraint on his newfound mobile freedom has grated on him for 26 years. So Diamond launched into years of research on police ticketing strategies, some of it while employed on Capitol Hill, and all disclosed daily on his self-funded website TheNewspaper.com since 2004.
"Ticketing efforts have not gone down one bit," he says. Instead, there is a bewildering new variety of methods such as automated ticket machines with cameras and license-plate readers, doling out tickets for blocking bus lanes during gridlock or idling too long. "Any violation you can dream up, they're working on a device to ticket you. You can get laws passed for anything."
But speeding still makes up about 54 percent of tickets, Diamond says. Factoring the data from 40 states that report speeding revenue, "I estimate that it's $2 billion annually" in the U.S.
Here's some Diamond wisdom to help:
1. "The very first thing is to have situational awareness. If traffic slows, there's a reason," Diamond says.
2. Be ready for anything. There are speed traps from moving and stationary radar, lidar, known-location speed cameras, as well as hidden cameras, VASCAR stopwatch calculators, and just plain visual observation. In Vermont, for example, a police officer can simply make a guess of a vehicle's speed and it will stand in court, though that has been outlawed in most places.
3. "Keep a low profile—don't call attention to yourself. A minivan in the slow lane is less likely to get a ticket than a red Ferrari."
4. Keep quiet. Diamond says to present your license and registration and insurance card, and that's it. "You don't have to answer [anything] else—you have to say you're asserting your right to stay silent, or 'Please speak to my lawyer.' Do it in a polite way, nice and respectful. Antagonists get the most tickets. There are no warnings for a**holes."
5. Fight every ticket. In court, attacks on the legality of a speed-limit sign have been known to work. Attacks on the chain of evidence have worked too. In the Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts case of 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that the sixth amendment right to face one's accuser applies to lab tests. In California, courts have interpreted this to mean that photo tickets are not valid unless the technician who analyzed the photo testifies in court.
6. Now we're getting into serious ticket-fighting territory. "Check for the technical calibration of radar," Diamond says. "Usually radar evidence is admissible, presuming calibration. But in some states, any laser ticket is thrown out automatically because there is no calibration possible."
To do this, check the manufacturer specifications for the device via a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act ) request to the police department that issued the ticket. Ask for a description of how the police department abided by the calibration specs, which usually involves checking a radar gun's frequency with a tuning fork provided by the radar gun manufacturer and sending the unit to the manufacturer to be recalibrated. "It's worth investing the time to get your ticket overturned. I've done it myself in Virginia. First thing to do is pull up the vehicle code."