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Misconceptions About Traffic Infractions

Interviewer: What are some common misconceptions or urban myths that people have about traffic infractions or any particular traffic infraction?

Mark: I would cite speeding. People have a tendency to think, “Okay, the officer wrote me up for 80 miles an hour. I was not going 80 miles an hour,” and so they’ll oftentimes go in front of the judge and say, “I wasn’t going 80 miles an hour, I was going 75, and the speed limit’s 70. He shouldn’t have pulled me over and given me a ticket.”

When Saying Less Is More

They just admitted that they’re guilty because anything exceeding the speed limit is still a violation of the law. The end result might mean you have a slightly lesser fine, but the bottom line is the insurance consequences are far more for a regular ticket than any fine that you’re going to pay. So people incriminate themselves by admitting, in court, they were guilty, even partially guilty.

Red Light Camera Laws

In California, oftentimes on red light camera tickets, people think that they’re guilty because the light was red when they went through the intersection. Actually the law in California is that if any party or vehicle, or if your vehicle is in the intersection at the time it turns red, that you’re legal as long as you’re proceeding through it in a normal speed. So if the back end of your vehicle has just exited the intersection while the light turns red, then you actually are legal, and lots of people don’t realize that.

California’s Basic Speed Rule

The third scenario that comes up fairly often is when people will think that just because they were going faster than the posted speed, that they were guilty. In California, on secondary roads, we have what they call the basic speed rule. This basic speed rule says, number one, a traffic survey has to be done, normally done within every five years to justify having that posted speed limit there; and number two, if that traffic survey does not actually justified the posting of that low of a speed, then it’s invalid. Therefore, the posted speed is invalid. And, number three, if the circumstances of that particular day, the conditions, whether it’s sunny and clear, the pavement is dry, there is limited traffic, you could still be driving as any reasonable person would under the circumstances and that would be completely legal regardless of what the posted speed is.

By Mark Bigger