I have written about this topic before but with summer nearing and the driving season upon us I thought a refresher course was due. All of our states could use a few extra bucks and they have figured out how each of us can help.
For starters, all of us have lived through the sickening feeling of seeing that big ol’ red light in our rearview mirror. It’s especially frustrating and nerve racking when we are driving our hot rods. There was a time when my boyish good looks would have the police officer go into a speech about driving safe—I’m young and need to learn; careful, your insurance will now go up; and you don’t want anything to happen to this nice car. I will not complain about a single ticket, for every time I was pulled over there were dozens of times where I should have been and wasn’t.
I am an old fart now and when pulled over the youthful officer with the oversized helmet, Aviator sunglasses, and a ticket book the size of War and Peace doesn’t even try to lecture me. Now it’s, “Hey someone your age should know better.” Well, duh, you would think.
Did you know in the early days of highway safety that speed limits were established based on safety in a given area along specific stretches of road? Well, nowadays speed limits are “adjusted” not based on road safety but based on the state, county, city, or township revenue requirements.
In doing my research I found some interesting tidbits like: “Speed limits are supposed to be based on factual studies of traffic and what the majority of motorists deem as a safe speed,” Chad Dornsife, director of the Highway Safety Group, says. “Now, the posted limit has become a revenue generator—not a safety device.”
A little deeper digging and I came across this chunk of information from The National Motorists Association, a drivers’ rights group that estimates speeding tickets are a $4.5 to $6 billion industry in America. You would think all of us who have contributed should be deemed shareholders and participate in some form of dividend payment system.
Some clarification is needed as to what constitutes a speeder. There are municipalities that will ticket you for going 1 mph over the speed limit and others set the speed limits artificially low. Speeders aren’t always the crazed-eye hoodlum type.
“In some places, the average speed limit is set 10 to 15 miles below the actual safe speed for conditions,” Dornsife says. “It makes technical violators out of people otherwise driving safely.” Are you beginning to understand how important it is for you to drive with a watchful eye—regardless of whether it is your hot rod or your cowboy Cadillac?
In my hometown area (Los Angeles) it’s been reported that there are 151 speed traps, making it much easier to catch more speeders in a given timeframe. You’ll get a ticket in one of these areas, which aren’t necessarily on the freeways but on local streets. Let’s say you get a speeding ticket in one of these areas and you don’t have proof of insurance. Hang on, the cash register can easily run up to $1,400 in fines. As for fighting tickets in Los Angeles—well, it’s frowned upon. Our cities and the state are at or nearing bankruptcy and since the citizens won’t authorize any new taxes, the state and local government officials have to find the money somewhere.
I find myself, at the time of this writing, getting ready to leave for Austin, Texas. So, being the vigilant driver of a hot rod I thought I would check out Austin to see how it treats drivers. Hope you are all sitting down for this one.
Austin is reported to have something to the tune of 189 speed traps. Texas has a nifty law that’s referred to as “home rule,” meaning municipalities don’t have to follow state laws. Yep, they really are the judge, jury, and executioner. There are reports of motorists who say they were given a ticket for 3 mph over the speed limit in a school zone. Now, I am in favor of protecting the little ones (I have five grandkids), but the posted speed limit was 80 and the driver was ticketed for 83 mph. Oh, did I mention that the school zone sign was two miles away from the school.
Pay particular attention to Austin’s northern and southern city limits (according to Speedtrap.org), as law enforcement is particularly vigilant. I might add reports say that police aren’t averse to pulling over multiple cars at a time to maximize their time spent writing tickets. Well, at least they are optimizing their time by increasing productivity.
Now, I am not picking on Texas, but they do have three of the Top 10 cities for speed traps. Number one in the country is Houston with 372 speed traps. That’s not a misprint.
In checking with Speedtrap.org it is reported that there are traps set at the Houston city limits and near attractions like the Astrodome. The one I like is the rapid and dramatic change in the posted speed limit. Entering Houston on Highway 59 North the posted speed limit is 70. Guess what it drops to immediately? How about 55 mph. The officer who hands out tickets on this stretch of road has been reported to be immediately adjacent to the speed limit sign. One has virtually no opportunity to slow down and it’s an immediate ticket for 15 mph over the posted speed limit, which by the way is an expensive ticket.
In rummaging around for some additional data it was noted that in March 2010, KTRK Channel 13, reported that Houston police wrote approximately 3,000 tickets per day, or 147 an hour. I’m impressed but I do not want to find myself on the wrong end of their local law enforcement effort.
According to TrafficTicketSecrets.com, it is reported that the average speeding ticket in the United States is about $150. Multiply that out and that’s $450,000 a day—and $14 million for the month. Now that’s a great way to get us out of our current fiscal disaster. Drive safely, be aware, and carry a fat wallet. See you on the road this summer.