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Are Speed Traps Illegal?

Speed traps are perceived by drivers as a major source of speeding tickets. Police officers may use speed traps to identify and ticket motorists, catching these drivers off-guard. This leaves many people wondering, “Where did that officer hiding?” “Was I even going that fast?” “Did the officer use a speed trap?”

For starters, speed traps are generally understood to be an act in which police officers, speed cameras, and radars strictly enforce speed limits in areas where:

  • Drivers tend to speed
  • Numerous accidents have occurred
  • The speed limit changes drastically (i.e., school zones and playgrounds)

Although many drivers argue that speed traps are intended to raise city revenues, law enforcement agencies justify their use of speed traps by asserting that they are used to protect the public and help prevent crashes. Whichever side of the argument you’re on, it may benefit you to learn some examples of speed traps:

  • A posted speed limit changes from 45 to 35 miles per hour on the same stretch of road
  • A posted speed limit does not accurately reflect traffic patterns
  • A police officer relying on outdated traffic control devices and speed detection devices
  • A posted speed limit changes several times within a few-mile distance
  • Poorly-posted/poorly-visible speed limit signs
  • Using red-light cameras to ticket motorists
  • Enforcing speed in highly-populated areas such as tourist attractions

As you can see, speed traps may be intentional or unintentional, depending on how you interpret them. It’s not always law enforcement’s fault for enforcing speed in areas where the speed limits change drastically, but one could blame police officers for knowingly enforcing speeds in areas where drivers are most vulnerable to getting a ticket.

How Are Speed Limits Determined?

With all of this information in mind, you may wonder how speed limits are decided upon altogether. Why do some roads have different speed limits than others?

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, engineering studies must justify the outcomes in their speed studies by doing the following:

  1. Measuring prevailing speed characteristics and determining the 85th percentile speed
  2. Evaluating reported crash experience for the past 3 to 5 years
  3. Checking the road’s geometrics including lane widths, curves, roadside hazards, and sight distances
  4. Determining the 10 miles per hour pace
  5. Determining average speed
  6. Evaluating density and roadside development in terms of the number of driveways and access points where vehicles can enter the traffic flow

The DOT advises engineers to also do the following in their speed studies:

  • Consider conflicts with parking practices, and pedestrian and bicycle activity
  • Evaluate shoulder widths as well as roadway and shoulder conditions
  • Determine the current level of enforcement

As you can see, setting speed limits is a methodical process. However, if these speed studies aren’t updated accordingly and speed limit changes aren’t implemented over time, drivers may be more susceptible to getting a ticket.

Caught in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time?

No matter how convinced you are that you were driving the speed limit and the officer was wrong for ticketing you, you must still face the harsh reality that you still got a speeding ticket and you need to fight it. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s pointless to fight your ticket, as you’d be surprised to learn how effective a good lawyer can be at helping you resolve your issue.

Our Milwaukee traffic violations lawyer is by your side every step of the way. To get started, contact us at (414) 882-8382!