It's the moment all drivers dread: when you look in your rearview mirror and see flashing blue and red lights behind you as you're flagged to the side of the road.
Speeding tickets can be a motorist's worst nightmare (next to an accident). If you get one, you need to know exactly what you're facing and what your options are.
The consequences of a ticket
The penalty you'll face for speeding can vary greatly, based on how far above the speed limit you were going and the state where you got pulled over.
The fine can range from $50 up to $2,500 in the most severe states. Immediate impounding of the vehicle can happen in extreme cases when you were really flying over the posted speed.
Beyond the initial penalty, you can face higher auto insurance premiums for years.
What to do when you're pulled over
If you do get a little lead-footed and find yourself pulled over, a few important tips can help immediately.
Politely ask the officer which recording method was used to track your speed, and make a note of it.
Don't admit to speeding, and say as little as possible, because anything you say could be used against you in court.
If you're honest and courteous, there's always the chance that the officer will let you off with just a warning.
If that doesn't work, write down all relevant information as soon as the officer lets you go: the time, location and any external factors such as missing or poorly visible speed-limit signs.
Your options for getting out of a ticket
Once an officer has handed you a ticket, you have some options that might get you out of it altogether or at least minimize the penalty.
An unorthodox yet sometimes effective method is to call the officer at work and see if he or she will meet with you. If you can present your case in the best possible light — maybe by elaborating on a reason for your offense — the officer might let you off the hook.
If the meeting method seems too intimidating, you could write the officer a letter with a similar explanation and a plea for leniency.
If the officer won't budge, you can try the same techniques on the traffic court judge or prosecutor. Always remember to be polite, and avoid being a pest. If a request for mercy gets a firm no, don't ask again.
You may find that no one is willing to let you off the hook entirely. In that case, and if the potential fine is really stiff, try to negotiate an alternate punishment, such as taking a defensive driving course.
If the case looks like it is indeed headed to court, attempt to delay as much as possible so that you'll seem like a distant memory to the officer. The less he or she remembers, the easier the case will be to fight.
Maybe you'll get lucky, and the officer won't show up or will have been transferred. In those instances, your ticket will immediately be thrown out!