We’ve all had the experience.  We are driving along and suddenly we see the lights behind us.   We aren’t sure what we did wrong, but our day, not to mention our driving record, is about to get worse. 

Traffic tickets are frequently beatable.  But, learn some tricks that can help you escape the traffic man.

First, understand traffic tickets are not about safety. They are about revenue to the state, county or city. Cops generally don’t like giving them out but it is part of the job and even if they don’t have an explicit quota, they also know how many tickets they have to write in a month to keep their supervisor from harassing them. 

When you are pulled over the officer is going to want to see your license, registration and proof of insurance.  Have those ready when the officer arrives at your window.  Unfortunately, we live in a crazy time when officers are shot far too often. Don’t be reaching into the glovebox for papers. 

Be polite to the officer. He or she is just doing their job and you attract more flies with honey than you do vinegar.

Here are the tricks.

  1. Please your case to the officer.  If you have a good reason, tell the officer.  “I did not see the speed limit sign.” “My baby is sick.”  “I haven’t had a ticket in ten years.”  The last time I was pulled over was in Florida for a HOV lane violation. I was polite with the officer and explained I did not see the markings.  When he asked me how I could have missed them, I told him HOV signs were placed differently in Tennessee and that is how I missed it.  He let me go with a warning.
  2. Look up the offense the officer has charged you with when you get home. Sometimes officers get it wrong and you have a defense.  You also need to know what your exposure is.  While most offensives carry a fine and put points on your license, some offenses can get your license suspended.  
  3. Always go to court. You would be surprised how often officers do not show up for traffic court. They may have good reasons, such as appearing in another court, vacation or illness.  You can ask to have your case dismissed and it is almost always done.
  4. Plead your case to the judge.  Here’s a secret. Most traffic court judges are elected.  If you live in the city or county, you are a voter for them. They don’t want you leaving thinking, ‘I’m going to vote against this jerk.’  If you have a good defense raise it. If you don’t, give the judge a reason to give you a break.  Often, they will give you a break that keeps the violation off of your driving record.
  5. If you are out of town or if you have a spotty driving record, hire a traffic court lawyer. You’d be surprised how many times a traffic court lawyer can get someone out of a ticket.

Finally, if you get a ticket while you are out of state, don’t just ignore it. All fifty states are a part of an interstate agreement to enforce each other’s traffic tickets (after all, it is all about the revenue).  If you ignore the ticket, that other state will notify your state and next thing you know, your license is suspended. Then you have to clear up the ticket in the first state before you can get your state to reinstate your license. And all of that costs money.

Finally, one other tip to avoid tickets. The Waze app will warn you about speed traps, particularly if you are on the Interstate. The app is free and it has save me from a couple of tickets.