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How To Avoid Traffic Tickets

Don't run red lights. Stop for school buses. Wear your seat belt. You probably already follow common traffic laws like these to ensure you won't run into the police. Yet, even law-abiding drivers can get tickets.

These little slips of paper can lead to more problems than a fine. They can also give you higher insurance rates and points on your driver's license. A traffic offense can sometimes put a misdemeanor or felony on your criminal record.

There are other ways for motorists to keep their driving records clean. This article provides some tips on how to avoid traffic tickets.

Maximize Your Sightlines When Driving

The best way to be able to spot the police is to ensure that you have good visibility from your car. You can do this by cleaning your windows and mirrors whenever you fill up at a gas station. If you have large stickers on any of your windows, removing them may be a good idea.

Also, check your rearview mirror for excessive vibration. If your rearview mirror moves too much, you might lose visibility to the back of your car. You can easily fix this problem by checking your car's suspension or ensuring the wheels are balanced.

Identify Highway Patrol Vehicles

It's a good idea to learn how to spot highway patrol cars, whether they are driving around or parked on the side of the road. It can be tricky to tell whether a car is a patrol vehicle.

Highway patrol cars are typically sedans with siren lights mounted on the top or sides of the car. Many highway patrol jurisdictions also employ patrol cars with smaller, sleeker profiles. Sometimes, the lights on top of vehicles are inside the car near the windows.

Know Where Police Officers Patrol

Highway patrol cars often wait for speeders near highway on-ramps. When driving through an overpass followed by an on-ramp, it's always a good idea to look around for any parked cars, check your speed, and drive safely.

Patrol officers often work in teams. One car might check speeds using a radar gun while parked on the overpass. Another car could be waiting below the overpass to issue a speeding ticket. Stationary motor vehicles on an overpass could signal that you're approaching a speed trap.

Police vehicles driving in the opposite direction may be watching your lane, too. These vehicles have features that allow patrol officers to U-turn quickly and catch up to you. You could get a ticket if they notice you breaking a traffic law.

Watch for Patrol Motorcycles

In addition to cars, the highway patrol often uses motorcycles and airplanes. Highway patrol motorcycles are recognizable due to their large size and rear radio antenna. The rider of a patrol motorcycle usually sits upright, which is distinct from sport bikes with forward-leaning riders.

Consider Patrol Airplanes

Some highway patrols use airplanes and other small aircraft to issue speeding tickets. This method is more common in rural areas with large stretches of highway, such as South Dakota. If highway patrol monitors speed via aircraft, the roadway will typically warn drivers with signs.

Spotting a plane is harder than spotting a highway patrol car or motorcycle. However, if you see a small plane flying parallel to the road you're on, the police may be monitoring your speed from above.

Don't Stand Out on the Road

One of the best ways to prevent traffic citations is to avoid being noticeable on the road. Don't give police any reason to pull you over. Your vehicle itself could inspire them to issue a non-moving violation.

To lower your chance of catching a patrol officer's attention, follow these tips:

  • Ensure the darkness of any tinted windows is within your state's vehicle code.
  • Only flash your headlights at slower drivers while you are driving within the posted speed limit.
  • Only drive in the left lane when passing slower vehicles. Some states prohibit driving in the left lane unless you are safely passing another car.
  • Match your speed to the flow of traffic, especially in poor weather conditions.
  • Avoid flashy car modifications, such as extra large spoilers, oversized wheels, and lighted undercarriages.
  • Limit your bumper stickers, especially stickers that an officer could find offensive.
  • Only use a radar detector if it is legal in your state. Police can tell if you are using one. If they pull you over, they may be more likely to give you a ticket instead of a warning, even where it's legal.
  • Avoid custom license plates that may lead to police assumptions. For example, a license plate that says "SPD DMN" (speed demon) could work against you.
  • Keep your registration tags current.
  • Repair cracked windows and replace bald tires as soon as possible.

Driving a car that looks like everyone else's vehicle might be less exciting. Standing out, however, could raise your risk of an expensive ticket for a minor infraction.

Can You Get Around a Traffic Ticket?

Yes, it is possible to fight a ticket if it's too late to prevent one. Avoiding a ticket is the most effective way to protect your driving privileges without paying fines and court costs. Still, it's not the only way.

Your ticket might note a mandatory traffic court appearance. Otherwise, you can schedule a court date with your local clerk's office to argue your case. A traffic ticket lawyer can help you explain your perspective and provide evidence. If you succeed, the judge may reduce or cancel the ticket penalties.

More serious traffic offenses like drunk driving (DUI/DWI) or reckless driving can be more complex. These cases typically involve criminal charges. The potential penalties are much worse than higher insurance premiums. It's important to approach your defense based on the specific charge you face.

Get Legal Help with a Traffic Ticket

Citations can carry high enough stakes to warrant calling a lawyer. A traffic violation might risk penalties like license suspension or jail time in some cases.

If you have concerns about a traffic ticket, contact a local traffic ticket attorney for legal advice. You can also read FindLaw's Traffic Tickets FAQ to learn more.

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