Labor Day Travelers Beware: Police Are Preparing Their Ticket Books!

September 1999

The National Motorists Association warns motorists of speed traps, road blocks and revenue-driven traffic enforcement.

Primed with federal dollars for traffic enforcement campaigns, many states are launching a full-scale assault on motorists. Road blocks for seat belt enforcement, speed traps, “road rage” details, and high-profile DWI patrols are being touted as the solution to all of our highway safety problems.

“The one flaw in all this emphasis on intensive enforcement is that the end result is often more accidents, more injuries and more fatalities than occur with normal enforcement activity,” says James J. Baxter, President of the National Motorists Association. For example, in 1995, a $745,000, federally funded Memorial Day enforcement binge in Connecticut yielded a 33% increase in speeding tickets, a 51% increase in seatbelt tickets and a 22% increase in DWI citations. But the biggest increase of all was a 66% increase in accidents on the highways targeted for enforcement!>

“With the enforcement emphasis on quantity rather than quality, it’s likely many motorists will be issued tickets that they otherwise would not get. Drivers should plan ahead for the possibility of a traffic-enforcement encounter.”

The NMA offers several suggestions on how to handle a traffic enforcement encounter:

* Always pull over as soon as is practical to the right hand side of the road. If there is not a safe place to pull over, drive at a reasonable speed until a safe location presents itself.M

* Have your license, registration and proof of insurance (if required by law) readily available for presentation to the officer. * Remain in your car and place both hands on the steering wheel, this lessens the anxiety for the officer by assuring him or her that you are not holding a weapon out of eyesight.

“Don’t argue your case on the roadside, and don’t admit to any violation of the law,” Baxter explains. You are required to obey the reasonable requests of the officer, such as stepping out of the car if requested to do so. However, you are not required to answer any questions that could, in any way, be incriminating. Nor, as in the case of a DWI stop or checkpoint, are you required to recite the alphabet or exhibit balancing skills or acts of physical agility.

Furthermore, never voluntarily consent to a search of your vehicle. To legally search your vehicle, an officer must have a search warrant or probable cause to believe you have an illegal item in your vehicle. The officer must be able to explain what he or she intends to search for and why he or she believes that item is in your vehicle.

“Be polite, be courteous and don’t insult the officer’s intelligence with an implausible excuse. But, if all your cooperation is still rewarded with a traffic ticket, it’s time to ask some questions of your own,” Baxter explains.

Ask the officer how, when and where he observed your supposed violation. If “speeding” is the issue, request the serial number of the device used to clock your speed. Note the traffic conditions, weather and roadside development. If you sincerely believe an error has been made, write down all information that may have some bearing on your traffic ticket.

“We urge and encourage everyone to fight what they believe are unfair, unjust or just plain money-grabbing traffic tickets,” Baxter says. But, don’t just ignore it and think it will go away. All the states exchange information on unpaid traffic tickets. Not paying or responding to a traffic ticket is a guaranteed way to get your drivers license suspended.

Baxter concludes, “The National Motorists Association goes to great lengths to help its members fight traffic tickets. A motorist must spend time and effort to successfully challenge a traffic ticket, but the rewards are many. Preventing fines and insurance surcharges can save thousands of dollars. Perhaps more important, successfully challenged tickets take the shine and the profitability out of high-profile enforcement campaigns. Finally, there is the personal pride that comes from not compliantly accepting exploitation at the hand of your own government.”