When traffic court judges get sick of speed traps

Road safety audits are usually dull reading, but sometimes you find gems buried inside them. Signs that not everybody sees “write more speeding tickets” as the solution to every problem.

I’ve written before about temporary speed limits that become permanent. One such is on Route 2 in Acton, Massachusetts.

Route 2 is a limited access, divided highway. Back when Mass DPW set speed limits based on engineering studies, it was posted 60 mph. In 1973 the speed limit was reduced to 45 for a six month trial. I found a note in state files saying the engineers didn’t know why it was reduced. There was no engineering study like there would have been if engineers had initiated the change.

After six months the temporary speed limit was made permanent. Again, nobody knows why.

The prevailing speed of traffic on that highway is over 60. A speed limit below 60 can’t be justified, for “safety” or otherwise, and in fact it never was justified. It was just posted.

Normally a road where the average speed is 10 to 15 mph over the limit would be happy hunting ground for revenue-hungry police to make their quotas. Not as much as you think.

The Road Safety Audit explains:

Police officials also indicated that speeding violations are frequently over turned in court by court officials. When court officials are shown photographs of the Route 2 segment between the Concord Rotary and Taylor Road/Piper Road by the defendant, court officials appear to feel that travel speeds exceeding 45 mph are appropriate and rule against the issuing police officer.

In other words, even traffic court magistrates think the 45 mph limit is a speed trap.

Probably.

A few years ago the state stopped paying magistrates with speeding conviction revenue. Now they collect an up front, nonrefundable fee to plead not guilty.

Could be they figure as long as you’re paying them the least they can do is rule in your favor.

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