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What are Speeding Tickets?

By Pablo Garcia
Updated Jan 23, 2024
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Speeding tickets are a paper citation issued to a motorist for exceeding a posted legal speed limit on a public road or street. A law enforcement officer writes and issues the ticket. In US jurisdictions, speeding is a “moving violation,” because it occurs while the motor vehicle is in operation as opposed to being stationary, as in parking offenses.

In the US and other countries, speeding tickets or citations include the date of the offense, the make and model of the vehicle, and its registration and license numbers. The tickets also includes identifying information about the driver and her personal driver’s license number. They will generally indicate how much over the speed limit the motorist was driving.

In many US jurisdictions, speeding tickets will include a date to appear in traffic court. Some states allow the motorist to plead guilty by signing the ticket and mailing it with the appropriate fine to the clerk of the court in the county or municipality in which the violation occurred. Some states require a personal appearance if the motorist’s speed was a certain amount over the posted speed limit. In some circumstances, the motorist may have to surrender her driver’s license as bond for the court appearance.

Traffic court is usually held separately from criminal court. However, traffic cases are not considered civil cases because they involve a violation of the law and can be punished with jail in addition to fines. Many US states and some European countries have a “point system” for moving violations, including a speeding ticket. If a motorist accumulates enough points through repeat offenses, it can result in the suspension or revocation of her driving privileges. Points charged against a driver’s license for speeding offenses can also increase a driver’s car insurance rates.

Fines and penalties for speeding tickets vary from state to state in the US. Most traffic laws are set by the various state legislatures, but there also may be local ordinances regarding speed limits. Jail is generally imposed only after repeat offenses or the failure to pay fines. The most serious punishment is usually reserved for motorists whose speed was so excessive as to pose a serious threat to the lives and safety of the public.

In the US, the speed limit on interstate highways is between fifty-five and seventy-five miles per hour. Although the western states of Nevada and Montana previously had no speed limits for some highways, all states in the US now have speed limits. In Europe, most countries have some legal speed for highways or motorways, and they are generally comparable to those in the US. In Germany, some parts of the Autobahn have only “advisory” speed limits. The Isle of Man, which lies in the Irish Sea between the UK and Ireland, is reportedly the only country in the world without a national speed limit.

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Discussion Comments

By Ruggercat68 — On Aug 22, 2014

In my state, if you're caught driving faster than 15 mph over the posted speed limit, you can be charged with reckless driving. If you think regular speeding ticket fines are high, just wait until the reckless driving charge is included.

I was driving down a steep mountain one time and a state trooper pulled me over for speeding. He told me the radar gun indicated I was driving 20 mph faster than the posted speed limit of 55 mph. He decided not to charge me with reckless driving because I was going down a hill at the time. I didn't figure I could beat that speeding ticket in court, so I mailed in the ticket with the fine.

By Phaedrus — On Aug 22, 2014

I have never tried to fight a speeding ticket, mostly because I figure technology is on the side of the police officer who issued the ticket. He has a radar gun to back up his claim, but I don't have any evidence I was doing the speed limit. I usually just waive my right to a trial and pay the speeding ticket fines. In my state, that's around $125 these days.

There was one time when the police pulled over virtually every driver on a particular stretch of road, including me. The posted speed limit was 30 mph, but that part of the road is long and flat and isolated, so most people go at least 40-45 mph. The police set up a radar gun and directed every car to a side road for ticketing. I thought I might be able to beat that speeding ticket because I was only keeping up with the flow of traffic, but I decided not to risk it.

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