10/24/2012 3:30 PM ET|
How to get a warning, not a ticket
If you get stopped by a policeman or trooper, a ticket that jacks up your car insurance bill is the last thing you want. Here's how to avoid one.
When you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror, take a deep breath. The next few minutes could make all the difference when your next insurance bill arrives.
State troopers and police officers have 100% discretion. They can write you a ticket, or they can give you a warning. They can write down exactly what their radar gun shows, or they can write down a number that will lower your fine and reduce the number of points on your license.
If you have been pulled over, your immediate fate is in the officer's hands -- and so are your future insurance premiums.
A speeding ticket that qualifies as reckless driving in your state is the single worst traffic violation you can inflict on your insurance bill, according to data gathered by Insurance.com, with premiums rising an average of 22%. But knocked down to 14 mph or less over the limit, that hit falls to 11%.
Of course, the best way to keep your insurance from going up at all is to keep the ticket off your record in the first place.
To increase your chances of a receiving a warning rather than a ticket:
- Make it an easy stop. Pull over quickly, turn your interior lights on and keep your hands in sight on the wheel. When an officer approaches a vehicle, says Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Scott Bright, he or she will be looking at how many people are in the car and where their hands are.
- Be respectful. If you were looking for a way to ensure a ticket, being argumentative, angry or rude is a great way to do it. "There is no guarantee that a driver will receive a warning based upon behavior," says Colorado State Patrol Capt. Jeff Goodwin, "but it certainly helps to be respectful and less confrontational."
- Save the excuses. Law enforcement officers have heard them all, so save your sob story. Answers to any questions should be brief and noncommittal. (For example, if the officer asks if you know why you've been pulled over, say no, legal experts advise.) Don't argue. This isn't a court.
Here is why you should bite your tongue.
"Every year," says Goodwin, "the CSP (Colorado State Patrol) issues many more warnings than citations."
In 2010, the Chicago Sun Times looked at the tickets written by the Lake County Illinois Sheriff's Department and found huge differences among officers. One officer issued only warnings, while another was responsible for 90% of the tickets written.
Perspectives often change as troopers gain experience.
Bright recalls that as a young Iowa trooper he frequently gave drivers a break on speed, but after 22 years on the road, he now writes tickets for the exact speed. "Without fail, it would be the drivers I gave a break that were the ones that would go to court," he says.
Anything above 80 mph is de facto reckless driving in Hawaii, North Carolina and Virginia. That threshold is 100 mph in California and Minnesota. A few mph one way or the other means the difference between a fine and losing your license to suspension.
If you were polite and honest and you kept your hands on the wheel, but you still got a ticket, remember that the law and statistics are on the officer's side. According to the National Transportation Highway Safety Administration, 32,880 people died in traffic accidents in 2010. Speeding caused 32% of those deaths.
When to fight, when to shop
Once you've been stopped for speeding, several outcomes are possible: a warning, a ticket that cuts you a break or a full-fledged, license-denting traffic violation. You still have options even after the officer has handed you the ticket and told you to have a nice day.
The National Motorists Association estimates that less than 5% of drivers go to court. Spokesman John Bowman says not fighting a ticket is a mistake. "Drivers will almost always come out ahead," he says, "either with a full dismissal or at least a lower penalty."
You can also go for deferred adjudication, a deal that prevents the conviction from appearing on your motor vehicle record.
But once the conviction is on your record, there is little you can do to lower your insurance rates except shop for a different insurance company, says Penny Gusner, a consumer analyst with CarInsurance.com.
"Insurance companies rate tickets differently," Gusner says, "and while your current one may raise your rates 10%, another one may not raise your rates on just one minor offense or surcharge you only 5% for it."
A minor ticket might not warrant an increase in your premium. But you could lose your good driver discount, and in some states that could bring a 20% increase in your insurance bill.
More from CarInsurance.com:
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There can be times to speak up. This happened to a friend of mine me to when we were going to the movies. When I came to his house, he had mentioned in passing that the spedometer on his car had broken that evening. I arrived at 9 pm, there was no possibility of finding a garage open at that hour, or tbh, that evening, most close by 5:30, 6 pm or there abouts. I told him he should get it fixed asap, but of course that night wasn't possible.
So we were heading to the movies, he was going with the flow of traffic, but in spite a cop pulled him over, and started asking him if he knew how fast he was going, he said no. Then asked him where he was going, and truthfully he said to the movies...
Seeing how this line of questioning was going, and being the passenger myself, I interjected and told the cop that he told me his spedometer broke down that evening. The cop asked him if that was true, he confirmed, and the cop's composure became less tense at that point. He gave the person a warning, and told him to get his vehicle fixed the next day.
There are times though, where things can happen that, well, the only way to lay this out there, is to mention it. At the time, my mother had retired in Maine, though she had lived in New Jersey, where her daughter and my brother in law live. I was flying down, my mother had driven, and my brother in law, who incidently was a police seargant at the time, but before retiring he had earned up to police deputy chief, prior to getting his current job with Homeland Security out in Philadelphia) picked me up from the air port, my sister driving my mother's car, as my brother in law followed them. It was i-78, the speed limit was still posted at 55 MPH, but no one went 55, and the people would have just assumed mow anyone over who did. My brother in law basically stated that 55 they don't enforce, because it isn't safe to go 55 there, but 65 they would enforce...
Well at this time, everyone going in flow with what, well if anyone has driven on 78 moving away from the Newark air port (which is also close to where headed in the other direction it goes through the tunnel into NYC), will know how congested it gets, this cop came up passing my brother in law from the shoulder of the road, cut him off, nearly forcing him into an accident with the people who were in the center lane, to get behind my mother's car (which his wife was driving), got on the bull horn and started yelling about "you d***ed out of state drivers coming down and breaking our laws, pull the **** over" as he was screaming every 4 letter expleative in the book. My brother in law, himself a cop, was quite upset about almost being forced in an accident himself.
When he got home (my sister hadn't pulled over to that), he asked what the cop had said to her, she told him, and at this he was like "that does it, no one speaks to my wife that way, fellow cop or not". So he called up the police department, and was like:
"Hello, this is seargant xxx from the yyy police department, we just had an incident with one of your officers...." He then proceded to tell them how the guy cut him off, nearly forcing him into an accident on i-78, got on the bull horn, and told them all the guy was screaming at, "actually it was my wife who was driving my mother in law's car, who has those out of state plates...."
The department told him "we've had disciplinary problems with that officer in the past, we'll take care of it", conv over. I can just see it now though, he got back, and his fellow officers would be like "way to go, the chief wants to speak with you NOW!!! You just cut off a cop, to start yelling obsenities at his wife, on the interstate. A cop's wife man, he isn't pleased" :o
In New Jersey, they have PBA cards that when pulled over, one can pass with their liscense that identifies them as members of a fellow officer's family, during a traffic stop....
Let me give you all a couple of hints on how to avoid getting stuck with a ticket.
1) BE NICE.
2) do the research on the law you have been accused of breaking
3) look online for the proper form of the ticket that is accepted as legal
4) find and PRINT OUT the case law that represents YOUR defense
5) research the federal book (mutcd) and the state book to ensure they say the same thing
6) go to court with all of your info in print.
There are allot more but why would I give away a not so secret secret?
INFORM yourself on the law, go to a bloody library and open a BOOK......all laws MUST be in print so that citizens may research and understand what is acceptable and what is not.
I have a 100% clean record in Los Angeles......nearly impossible to do....I go to court on every ticket and I beat EVERY ticket.....and I'm NOT a lawyer.
If you want to beat the ticket bad enough you will do the research to find out how.
It is simple. Oh, cops are not here to "write" tickets for the hell of it. None of them want to do the 3hrs of paperwork for EACH ticket unless they have to.
They could just arrest everyone instead of writing a ticket..............
I always tell the cop that a few weeks ago my wife ran away with a police officer and I thought that was you trying to give her back!
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