Speed traps are most known as being the bane of motorists everywhere. Sometimes you get let off with a warning, but sometimes you end up with a ticket and points on your license. What exactly is a speed trap? Speed traps are a section of a road where secret police, radars, speed cameras, etc., scrutinize vehicles’ speeds, strictly enforcing traffic regulations for appropriate speed limits, and are often distinguished by hard-to-see speed limit signs and concealed traffic signs.
Speed Trap Setups
When most people talk of speed traps, speed limits, or speed enforcement, they think of small-town police hiding behind billboards, or officers waiting to pick drivers where the limit of speed varies. But the real response is much simpler: A speed trap is used in traffic enforcement to focus mainly on collecting money rather than maximizing safety—the most popular argument— made possible by speed limits below the current traffic flow.
Ordinarily, a speed trap is set up by law enforcement to the point where the speed limit changes rather quickly—suppose from 55 mph down to 45 mph at the edge of a town. A speed trap is managed by watch officials or mechanized traffic enforcement, for example, speed cameras or red-light cameras at crossing points that likewise use speed cameras.
Understanding What a Speed Trap Is
As mentioned before, a speed trap is not necessarily a police car parked behind a billboard waiting for you to drive by, so they can clock you for going too fast. If the speed limit was posted, whether you saw the cop or not when you were speeding doesn’t matter.
An actual speed trap is when something genuinely illicit is happening. The government has to mark changes in the speed limit so that drivers can respond appropriately. The government’s responsibility, along with the Police Department, is to ensure that these speed limit increases are backed up by highway department reports showing that the adjustment is appropriate to ensure no one creates random places to trap vehicles while they drive.
Speed traps in the US cover about 4,000,000 miles of roadways, and there are an estimated 55,000-speed traps across the country.
Pros and Cons of Speed Traps or Cameras
The majority of the pros of speed cameras are reduced to anecdotes about community improvement but little hard data. Speeding affects urban areas and school zones. The Pros of speed cameras are mainly two:
- Awareness. If a driver is aware that a speed camera is installed in a given area, they tend to behave and drive the speed limit.
- Prevention by assuming. If a driver encounters enough speed cameras, they are more likely to understand that such cameras exist wherever they drive—especially in urban areas and school zones
Some organizations or associations, such as the National Motorist’s Association (NMA), are continually opposing to speeding cameras, and here are some of the reasons:
- False readings. Radar guns are not infallible, and if not handled or managed correctly, they will provide incorrect information. You, as a licensed driver, have other rights that you may not be aware of yet. Radar-triggered cameras are unreliable and can result in false readings of tickets being produced.
- There’s no definite proof of improved safety. The NMA claims that companies selling ticket camera equipment and services are biased and do not provide credible evidence that such equipment minimizes accidents, improves road safety, or helps regulate traffic flow.
- There’s no accuser to confront. It is a fundamental right for convicted people to confront their accusers, but when it comes to speed traps, there is no human being to question.
- Varied response. Drivers may begin to change their driving behavior in areas they become aware are being surveyed with cameras. Still, it does not always migrate to other cities and intersections, mainly where they can confirm that there are no cameras. Family areas considered to be camera-free by drivers can still produce speeding, reckless driving, and red lights flashing.
The debate regarding driver safety and speed limits is still a polarizing issue, as it’s divided by those who don’t believe in them, and those knowledgeable of the benefits speed traps bring to the community.
Identifying and Handling Speed Traps
Speed traps are an issue, especially when you consider that in some way, fines might be going straight into the government’s coffers. Even so, it is relatively easy to avoid speed traps thanks to today’s technology. However, ensuring that drivers or motorists don’t have to always look over their shoulders is a much more complicated process, but it can be done. You can avoid violating the law unintentionally—whether for one or two mph— by getting to know speed traps and the way they operate.
Types of Traps
As the name suggests, a radar gun is used, and it’s capable of detecting vehicles approaching and fleeing, both in front and behind the patrol vehicle. It can also monitor several targets at once. The different models of radar guns are:
Ka-band Radar Gun
Technically, these devices are capable of taking measurements and images from both the back and the front, although most older devices are usually measured from behind. The analysis of one vehicle can always be carried out on one lane at a time, but if multiple vehicles pass this radar speed trap simultaneously on numerous roads, only one of them will get a warning or a ticket.
K-Band Radar Gun
The approach on a K-band Radar is almost identical to that of the KA-Band Radar, but the key difference is that the signal uses another frequency. In general, the k-band radar is not as conventional as the KA-band radar, and it depends on the region. It is necessary to activate the k-band option on your radar detector, so you don’t lose against these speed traps.Civil: KA-band Radar Gun
Civil: KA-band Radar Gun
Mobile KA-band radar guns installed into civil police cars have the same features as in fixed traps. Still, some of these cars have not only a measuring unit mounted in the front but also the back. In this way, both directions of a road can be covered with a single vehicle at the same time. If you see one of these vehicles, but it’s parked on the other side of the road, then we highly suggest you slow down anyway.
Laser Speed Gun
A laser speed gun fires a high-speed burst of laser light from the infrared and then waits for it to bounce off the object. The different models of laser speed traps are:
Mobile Laser Speed Gun
The mobile-laser speed gun is almost exclusively used to measure a car from the front because it is impossible to make a photo proof, as the officers either have to pull you over or write down your license plate number. Both of these choices are only feasible when you are conscious of your speed before you pass the officer.
The Poliscan Speed Tower looks like a pillar, and functions as a laser speed gun, but with one significant difference. Unlike a standard police laser, this device not only sends laser pulses when a single car is being tracked but the entire time instead.
Fixed: Poliscan Speed Tower
Here ordinary laser jammers are futile as the laser pulses are not guided from the front but from the side to your car. Individual laser jammers facing sideways are required to protect yourself against this device.
Time-distance Speed Traps
The Time-distance speed traps are those when a police officer uses a time tracking system to measure the amount of time a car takes to pass through the speed limit, and once this has been achieved, it is a matter of measuring time over distance to determine the speed of the vehicles. It can also be done on foot, from a helicopter, or an officer’s spot. The different models of time-distance speed traps are:
The process goes like this: At the start of a defined section of the road —usually a few kilometers long—your car is photographed on a section control. A further photo is taken at the end of the section. As a result, the two pictures are matched automatically to read your license plate to determine the time between them.
Fixed: Induction Loop
The induction loop is the time it takes for the car to pass from one stage to another is taken. The difference, though, is that taking the time is not achieved through images, but through induction loops in the ground that are just a few meters apart, unlike on a section monitor, which is several kilometers apart.
Fixed: (Red Light Trap)
By using induction loops, the system knows you were going through a specific point on the street. You will get caught if this happens while the traffic light is red, as the system is connected to the traffic light. What you get is a red light camera ticket.
How to Avoid a Speeding Ticket
Each state takes into account the seriousness of issuing a fine for a driving accident. Many states in the U.S. will increase the speeding penalty if it is in an active construction area, or if it occurs during program hours in a school zone. Of course, the best tip to avoid a speeding ticket is to stick to the speed limit of any road you’re driving by, but if this fails to occur, then there are also some mobile applications with new speed trap features you can use to prevent a speeding ticket fine, which can help you identify where you will find a speed trap during your travel time. Here are some options to avoid a speeding ticket:
Speed Trap Apps that help you spot speed traps before you even see them
One of the easiest ways to find and handle speed traps is to download an app that keeps you updated about their existence thanks to a road map. For example, the mobile app Waze—which is mainly a GPS program— but that also provides information on your navigation screen about speed traps. This knowledge is invaluable, and if all you want to do is stop being stuck in a speed trap, all you have to do is pretty much that. While the app isn’t infallible, it’s updated regularly to make sure you don’t get caught off guard.
Google Maps Speed Trap Alert
Google Maps started rolling out a new range of features for its navigation system in 2019, which can help reduce some of the typical stresses of long-distance road trips. Users now have the opportunity to see speed limits for roads they’re on with the latest updates and track incidents along the way. However, one of the fascinating features is its latest warning about speed traps.
In the latest warning on speed traps, Google Maps essentially alerts travelers of nearby mobile speed trackers and traffic cameras. This knowledge helps control your speed and to prevent traffic tickets.
The Police Detector is another universal app that is used by many drivers. This app will give you both location icons and an alert for both the local police and fixed area radar detector devices.
This software is community-based. Users only have to tap the Police or Radar buttons, so they can monitor either a Police Unit or a stationary speed detection system. The Police Detector places the appropriate icon on the map for other drivers to view immediately.
It is an app with a large user base, so you’ll probably see plenty of icons and notifications in your location. Police Detector is a great app to use if you want to avoid areas that carry the highest risk of getting a speeding ticket.
Radarbot Speed Camera Detector
Radarbot is the only application that combines real-time alerts, with the best speed camera detection system using GPS, and it’s 100 percent legal and reliable. Radarbot has a quality speed camera warning system, real-time traffic warnings, and an advanced speedometer, all in one application. It reports traffic issues such as:
- Fixed Camera speed
- A patrol officer with a radar arm
- Mobile velocity camera
- Slowing traffic
- Automobile accident
- Or a warning with generic caution
What’s the Legal Difference Between Speed Traps and Strict Enforcement?
The US has adopted a standard engineering test for Road Safety, which main aim is setting acceptable speed limits. These engineering reports can help establish what’s an artificially low-speed limit. But actually, there is a difference in determining a speed trap and strict enforcement, as it’s based on intent.
If the primary aim is just to collect money, it’s a speed trap. If it’s just to improve road safety, it’s enforcement. Of course, those who operate speed traps often publicly say their aim is safety.
The distinction is somewhat subjective even when defined by law. For example, one California law describes a speed trap as “an arbitrarily low-speed limit combined with overly high enforcement.”An example of this is a road built in Oregon —with a speed limit of 35 mph—but then the posted limit was 25 mph. After 30 years, that speed limit was ruled as unconstitutional.
Speed Trap Laws in California
What is a “speed trap” under California law?
California Vehicle Code 40802 VC states that a “speed trap” is a segment of a highway where you determine the speed of a vehicle by counting the time it takes the car to move between two specified points.
What Is the Legal Definition of a Local Street or Road?
As per California Vehicle Code 40802(b)(1), a “nearby road or street” is a road or street that for the most part gives access to private property and meets the accompanying three conditions:
- Has a roadway width of not over 40 feet,
- Isn’t more than one-portion of a mile in continuous length, and
- It is close to one traffic path in each direction.
What is the legal definition of a school zone?
According to the California Vehicle Code 40802(b)(2), a California school zone is a school zone when meeting all of the following conditions:
1) Is a territory drawing nearer or passing a school building or school grounds
2) The zone outskirts or contacts a roadway,
3) The area is set apart with a “School” notice sign when kids are going or leaving the school, either during school hours or recess.
What is the law under Vehicle Code 40801 VC in California?
Vehicle Code 40801 is the California law that limits police from using speed traps to capture or aid the capture of an individual for any vehicle code infringement. It also includes an arrest for speeding, according to Vehicle Code 22350.
In agreement with California law, the speed of a vehicle cannot be conceded into proof if the speed was acquired or controlled by the use of a speed trap, which means there’s a prohibition on using the speed as both circumstantial or direct evidence.
While the authorities are not permitted to use speed traps in California for this means, the police can still use radar devices to show that a driver disregarded one of California’s speeding laws, which are:
- driving over 70 miles per hour,
- driving over 100 miles per hour on the freeway, and
- speeding in a construction zone.
Even so, drivers can fight a California traffic ticket for speeding by raising a legal defense. But before doing so, it’s recommended for drivers to contact a California traffic ticket expert.
What are California’s “Speeding Laws?”
“Speeding laws” are those California speed laws that force punishments on drivers if they are driving excessively fast. Some of the speeding laws include:
- Absolute speed limits
- “At first sight” or “prima facie” speed limits
- Driving more than 70 miles for each hour
- Driving more than 100 miles for each hour on the freeway
- Speeding in a construction zone
- Extreme speed on an interstate
- Speeding on a bridge or tunnel
When it comes to fines, the amount of a speeding ticket will rely upon the speed at which the driver was driving. The sum will likewise incorporate a base fine, expenses, and penalty evaluations.
Commonly, some of the penalties for damaging these speeding laws incorporate a fine and one point evaluated on the driver’s DMV driving record. A driver can get a negligent operator license suspension in case they receive 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months, or 8 points in 36 months.
What is the base fine of a traffic ticket?
The average cost of a traffic ticket in the US stands at $160. However, the value may be higher or lower in California depending on a number of factor:
- $35 if faster than the limit by 1 to 15 miles per hour
- $70 if faster than the limit by 16 to 25 miles per hour
- $100 if faster than the limit by 26 miles per hour
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Can police use radars to issue tickets for speeding?
While authorities are not permitted to use speed traps in California, it is possible for police to use radar guns, or devices to show that a driver violated a California speeding law.
If a person gets a speeding ticket due to radar use, then he or she can fight the ticket. They can do this by indicating that the radar device delivered the wrong result. There are three different and accessible ways to prove this:
- By demonstrating that objects meddled with the radar beam (trees, trucks or other vehicles)
- By demonstrating that the radar device was not aligned appropriately, and
- By exhibiting that the official using the speed trap did so in an incorrect way.
Can the speed of a vehicle be admitted into evidence?
According to the California Vehicle Code 40803(a), if the speed was obtained or determined by a speed trap, then the vehicle speed cannot be admitted into evidence. If this happens, it can’t either be taken as circumstantial evidence or as clear evidence.
Are speed traps illegal?
Generally speaking, it depends, as most laws are enforced at a state or a local level. The California Vehicle Code (CVC 40802) forbids the use of “marked road traps” and “unjustified speed limit traps.”
A “marked road trap” is defined as a “marked, designated, or otherwise determined” section of the highway for measuring a vehicle’s speed by calculating the time it takes to travel that distance. Whereas an “unjustified speed limit trap” is a specific highway section with a lower speed limit that is not justified by a traffic survey carried out over the past five years.
On the other hand, the word “speed trap” is used by motorists to describe a whole variety of stealthy police techniques used to enforce speed limits and other traffic laws. Most of these methods in most States— even California— are perfectly legal. Consequently, an officer with a radar gun parked in the road behind a tree-lined curve, or otherwise hidden from view, does not violate the law in California or nearly anywhere else.