7 On Your Side: Avoid traffic tickets by knowing how to fight speed traps

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Thursday, November 12, 2015
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Getting a speeding ticket is no small thing these days. Seven On Your Side's Michael Finney has some tips on how to avoid getting caught in a speed trap by knowing your rights.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Getting a speeding ticket is no small thing these days. They can add up to hundreds of dollars in fines, followed by years of increased insurance premiums.

7 On Your Side's Michael Finney has some tips on how to avoid getting caught in a speed trap.

Some may think of a speed trap as a police lying in wait, or, there is the example of getting pulled over in one state, like Arizona, but with California plates.

That happened to Gretchen Elliott of San Francisco.

"I got caught in a speed trap on the freeway," said Elliot. "They wouldn't let me leave town. I had to follow the guy to the police station and I had to pay the fine."

But neither of those scenarios are officially speed traps.

Francisco Rodriguez is an Oakland-based traffic law attorney. "There is a misconception as to what a speed trap really is," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez says every five years, roads must be studied and the speed limit set, in part, by how fast drivers are actually going.

"So, if you have Geary set at 35 miles per hour, but 85 percent of the people measured were traveling at 45, then yes, you have a speed trap. That is the classic definition of a speed trap," said Rodriguez.

There are exceptions for highways, bridges, tunnels and school zones, but generally if a road hasn't been studied or the limit is set too low, that's a speed trap. If you can prove a road hasn't been studied in five years, you could have a winning defense against a traffic ticket.

John Bowman is the vice president of the National Motorists Association.

"Most people don't bother to fight speeding tickets at all. We estimate that fewer than five percent of people who get tickets actually plead not guilty and go to trial," said Bowman.

The association has a Website that tracks speed traps and what drivers believe are speed traps. The Website lists the exit from 280 onto San Jose Avenue in San Francisco as one. And sure enough, we found officers there pulling over cars and writing tickets.

The San Francisco Police Department said officers were most likely there because people complained about traffic problems.

There are hundreds of potential speed traps listed on the site including Guerneville Road west of Dutton in Santa Rosa. In Fremont, a slice of South Paseo Padre comes up. The Website also lists 11th Street in San Jose as another speed trap.

Another way to keep track of potential speed traps is with the Waze app. The app verbally tells drivers and visually shows where other drivers spotted police.

When driving outside the state, you should be especially careful.

"It is fairly common knowledge that police will target out of state drivers for speeding tickets because they know that it's difficult for that driver to return to that state and go to trial or defend themselves," said Bowman.

Click here to download the Waze app.

Click here for more information on speed traps.

Click here for information on traffic attorney Francisco Rodriguez.