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Summer Driving: That’s the Ticket

Speeding is the most common type of moving violation—66 percent of all tickets issued in the U.S. are for exceeding posted speed limits.

Summertime is synonymous with travel. The season often brings vacations, road trips, and other fun adventures. During these months, traffic increases significantly on North Carolina’s highways and roadways and it’s important for drivers to be more vigilant than ever when operating their vehicles.

A telephone survey performed by AAA found that 80 percent of families polled are planning a road trip this summer, which is up 10 percent from last year. More people on the road means more chances for accidents, mechanical troubles, and—most of all—speeding tickets. According to a survey conducted in 2015 by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, speeding is by far the most common type of moving violation—66 percent of all tickets issued were for exceeding highway speed limits. Interestingly, more women (69 percent) get speeding tickets than men (64 percent) and those ages 50 to 64 (70 percent) get more speeding tickets than any other age bracket. So much for pinning reckless driving solely on teenagers!

A speeding ticket may seem like a minor issue, but it can be costly (in more ways than one) to fight or pay for a ticket. In cases where you’re facing increased insurance premiums you’ll likely need the assistance of an experienced attorney—he or she can offer the best legal advice when it comes to dismissing your ticket. And, if the citation cannot be dismissed, a lawyer can help you reach a plea bargain agreement for lesser charges.
The Rule of Law

In our state it’s a violation to drive at a speed that “exceeds what a reasonably prudent person would drive at given the current situation.” In addition, North Carolina has an “absolute” speed limit law, which means that you could be guilty of speeding by going even one mile over the posted speed limit. You could face a fine of between $100 and $1,000, jail time for a maximum of 60 days and have your driver’s license suspended for up to one year. Speeding can also add three points on your driving record!

The fines and costs associated with traffic tickets vary depending on what you’re cited for. But moving violations all have a set price that must be paid if you admit guilt or are found guilty of committing the offense. You might also face more than just state traffic ticket fines. Additional costs include court costs if you decide to challenge your ticket in court. These fees can definitely add up.

The Fewer the Points, the Better

The penalties for traffic tickets are uniform throughout the state. One example of this is the points that are added to a driver’s record for a moving violation. A set amount of points is assigned to each illegal maneuver and a driver will incur these points if he or she is convicted of a violation.

If you’re unfamiliar with the North Carolina point system, the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) keeps track of drivers through their driving record, which lists any traffic citations a driver has received as well as accidents in which a driver has been involved. Traffic violation convictions add points to your driving record and if you accumulate too many of these points during a certain amount of time, you could face additional consequences. For example, accruing 12 points within three years could lead to a suspended license. Hiring an experienced attorney to help you understand and fight the charges levied against you can prevent such consequences.

So Why Hire an Attorney?

Most attorneys will tell you it’s not in your best interest to simply pay a traffic ticket given the potential harsh consequences, both in terms of the penalty you face for this offense and the long-term consequences on your driving privileges, your criminal record, and your insurance rates. You should at least first consult with an experienced traffic law attorney before taking any action.

Jon Welborn, a North Carolina trial attorney, suggests employing professional help for traffic court especially if you:

  • Are unable to appear in court;
  • Have points on your license that will increase your insurance;
  • May lose your license because of a moving violation conviction;
  • Are not sure if you should plead or not;
  • Have been charged with DUI/DWI impaired driving, reckless driving or speeding in excess of 90 miles per hour, hit and run, or other habitual traffic offenses;
  • Have outstanding warrants for your arrest; or
  • Do not want to mail to the court payments for the cost of court.

If you decide to accept a plea an attorney can definitely ensure you get the best reduction possible to minimize the chances that your insurance premium will be increased.

The bottom line? At least speak to an attorney to be aware of the many options you have and the possible outcomes of the decisions you make concerning a speeding ticket.

Best Bets for Avoiding a Ticket

Karla Browsher of Money Talks News suggests the following tips to help you avoid a speeding ticket in the first place:

Be aware of your surroundings: Driver advocate Richard Diamond tells Popular Mechanics magazine that drivers must have situational awareness. For example, “if traffic slows, there’s a reason,” he says.

Avoid the fast lane: Not only does driving in the left-most lane risk giving an officer the impression you meant to go fast, it also makes it easier for officers hiding along the median to catch you. That’s because it’s the lane closest to them.

Watch out for hiding spots: Be aware of locations where officers can hide their cars or motorcycles from drivers, but remain close enough to the roadway to use a radar gun and quickly hop back on the road to catch a speeder. On highways, such locations include median cutouts, overpasses, and bends in the roadway wide enough to hide what lies ahead.

Mike Brucks, a former traffic cop in El Paso, Texas, tells Popular Mechanics that when he was on duty on his motorcycle, his favorite hiding spot was the freeway: “That’s where there are more speeders. I’d park under overpasses, on bridges. I needed to be able to start the bike and accelerate to go after someone.”

Wave at hidden police: An unidentified former police officer tells Reader’s Digest if you notice a hidden police vehicle while already driving a little too fast, you should wave at the officer as you drop your speed. He will either think you know each other and wave back, or will think you’re acknowledging you were driving too fast and are letting him know you’re slowing down. Either way, you drastically reduce your chance of getting a ticket.

Look innocent: As crazy as it sounds, some officers decide whether to give a ticket or a warning before they approach a driver. It helps to maintain your car exterior in a way that conveys you’re a responsible, law-abiding citizen rather than a frequent speeder who hates police and is hiding something. This includes keeping your car clean and uncluttered—do not add bumper stickers that might offend cops. Spoilers, tinted windows, and neon undercarriage lights also are unlikely to make a favorable impression.

Keep your car in working order: Jon Zimmerman, a traffic attorney in Washington, admits officers are more likely to let a single offense slide by, meaning they’re more likely to pull over a car that is speeding and has a broken headlight or taillight, for example.

Be considerate: If you’re pulled over, be nice. “Fighting with the police officer never increases your chances of leniency. You want him to like you,” says Lifehacker writer Stewart Rutledge, who says he’s kept about 30 speeding tickets off his record. Also keep in mind that pulling people over can be a dangerous task—don’t do anything that might make an officer feel uneasy.

Esurance advises that you turn off your car and turn on your hazards. If it’s dark, flick on a light inside your car. Be sure to roll down your window all the way. Remove your hat and sunglasses while remaining inside the car with your hands visible. Rutledge recommends placing them at “10” and “2” on the steering wheel. Don’t reach for your license, registration, or insurance until asked, as an officer might perceive sudden hand movements as threats.

While following these suggestions doesn’t guarantee you’ll avoid that ticket, it sure won’t hurt to give them a try! Do your best to be safe on the roads this summer—including watching your speed.

Members of the experienced team at GreeneWilson can explain your possible outcomes, investigate your ticket or other offense, and help you avoid the negative consequences you may face. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact GreeneWilson Attorneys at Law by calling (252) 634-9400 or visiting www.greenewilson.com.

(Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; AAA; Money Talks News; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Princeton Survey Research Associates International; CNN; Jon Welborn; Popular Mechanics, Reader’s Digest; and eDriving.com.)

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