Do any States in the US give traffic tickets for 5 mph above the speed limit?

  • In Louisiana, USA it's widely understood (unofficially) that one can travel 5mph above the speed limit without receiving a speeding ticket.

    Does this rule apply when traveling the rest of the States?

    Most speedometers read slightly high, so someone going 5mph over on their speedometer may only be going 2 or 3 mph over in reality. If your GPS shows speed you can get an accurate comparison (or use the old-fashioned mile marker + watch method)

    @SpehroPefhany I always assumed that the difference is because the GPS will smoothen and effectively shorten the vehicle's path if the road is not completely straight.

    @Szabolcs but that would make it read higher (less distance in the same time), and it usually reads lower than the car speedometer.

    @Szabolcs What do you mean by that? Are you simply saying that the speed shown is a moving average of the speed computed from the data obtained by the GPS satellites, or something else (like that the computer keeps into account the shape of the path etc to compute the speed)?

    I remember being taught in drivers ed in Ohio that you'd generally be fine a 5 over but to remember that your speedo was +/- 3. You could be doing 8 over and was it really worth a $150 ticket? That was 15 years ago. As a mature adult I've decided no its not worth $150 for 8 over, so I make sure I'm doing at least 10 over and getting the most for my money!

    @Bakuriu Suppose the blue line is the car's path. The GPS only measures the position from time to time, so it really sees the red line. The red line is shorter than the blue line, so GPS measures lower speed. Spehro: less distance in same time = lower speed.

    Of course the GPS *could* be smart and do a higher-order interpolation between the points, which would reduce this effect. The speedometer *could* also show a higher-than-true speed. I'm not claiming these are not so. I don't know.

    The important question is whether (all) the traffic cops share this 'wide understanding'.

    @SpehroPefhany Less distance in the same time _is_ a lower speed

    My experience with using GPS (as compared to a precision on car rally computer synchronized to measured miles) on various tour rallye events is that it tends to underestimate mileage traveled possibly due to not picking up height changes (lots of height changes causes it to significantly under read) as well as "shortcutting" corners (lots of corners in rapid succession also cause it to "lose" mileage).

    Ah. You are trying to find the Secret Speed Limit.

    Police can pull you over any time they care to - there's always a reason, even if they have to make it up on the spot. A few years ago a co-worker coming home just past midnight after pulling two consecutive shifts got pulled over for doing 38 in a 45 zone. The cop said, "We have an unposted minimum speed on this road - 40 miles an hour - and you were under it". Now, to be fair, once the cop was assured that the guy hadn't been drinking and was just tired after a double shift he let him go but he could have issued a ticket, which may or may not have held up in court.

    (Texas here, referring to various small cities in SA area) Some cities will not ticket unless you're 10 mph over, others will ticket if you're even 1 over (people often go 5 *under* in this city because it's well known for this hypersensitivity to speeding). Generally, though, 5 over is not going to get you any trouble. "Don't stick out" is good advice, since the locals will know how strict the police are.

    With one exception, all of the answers address only speeding on an open highway but doing 75 in a 70 zone is usually much less significant than doing 25 in a 20 zone. For example, the official guidelines in the UK are that penalties are only issued for people who exceed the speed limit by 10% plus 2mph. So you can be ticketed for doing 24mph in a 20 zone but shouldn't normally be for doing 78 in a 70 zone. Surely large parts of the USA also have similar schemes?

    Certain towns are known as speed traps. Here in California, two examples are Los Banos and Placerville.

    Believe it or not the number one factor that impacts whether a cop will decide to pull you over is the color of your car. I used to drive a nice sporty red number. Got a ticket every year. Now I drive a dark blue crossover. Not a single ticket. I've learned my lesson. I'd rather go fast than look fast.

    @BobJarvis So in other words that cop was lying. Obviously there isn't a legal range of 5 mph.

  • John Zwinck

    John Zwinck Correct answer

    6 years ago

    Getting stopped for going only 5 MPH over is unlikely anywhere in the US. Of course it can still happen if something else is suspicious, e.g. very dark tinted windows (which may also be illegal), a very unusual looking vehicle, etc.

    5 MPH over could be a discrepancy in measurement equipment, and officers do not want to go to court to explain when and how their radar gun was calibrated, etc. If they see you doing 20 over and write you a ticket for 10 or 15, it's less hassle for them. This cuts both ways: if your speedometer is slightly miscalibrated (entirely possible), you might be doing 10 over when you think you're doing 5 over.

    But there is no such "rule" that lets you drive over the limit. If you believe the speed limit is too low, it is incumbent upon you as a member of a democracy to try to get the limit increased.

    A speedometer is allowed to read slightly high, but it's illegal for it to read low. So the tolerances are set that most people are driving slightly slower than they think they are.

    Anecdotal, a friend got pulled over for 56 in a 55 years ago in Ohio. I suspect that he looked suspicious in some manner as that's otherwise unheard of...

    Cops sometimes use traffic offenses as an excuse to pull over a car if they want to check it out (drivers license, warrants, maybe see if they smell drugs, that sort of thing). If you're pulled over for going a tiny bit over the limit, that's probably what's going on -- they wanted to pull you over anyway, the speeding is just an excuse.

    I've been personally ticketed for 73 in a 70. It's not common, but it happens. :(

    @LessPop_MoreFizz: ouch. Well, that's why I said it's "unlikely" after all. Clearly no one can expect completely uniform treatment across an entire state, much less the whole US.

    Indeed. Just wanted to make it clear that it does. This was, admittedly, one of the most remote places possible to get a ticket (Ely, NV), in a car with Michigan plates. The assumption was clearly that fighting the ticket would be a nightmare for me, and thus, that I'd never bother and just pay the fine.

    @hobbs: That's interesting, I didn't know. However, a slightly under-reading speedometer is unlikely to correct its behavior in accordance with the law. One way it happens is when a car is outfitted with slightly larger tires than it originally had. For example, replacing 205/16 R55 tires with R60 ones (just one size taller) means you'll be going 65 when your speedometer says 60.

    In states that have checkboxes for offenses, there may not be checkbox for <3 mph over (they can't actually cite you!). Usually, <5 mph over is cited as a 0 point moving violation, meaning you can get an indefinite number of these tickets without license suspension. The fine is usually less than $20, making it an inefficient use of resources. It's typically not worth the officer's time in terms of paperwork for the offense, and excessive tickets of this nature might even get the chief of police in trouble (e.g. the courts will tell them to stop nitpicking because it's overwhelming).

    Be wary of small towns, especially those that highways/interstates pass through. Traffic tickets can be a significant source of their revenue on the basis that someone with out-of-state plates (a la @LessPop_MoreFizz) won't be willing/able to fight it and will just pay the fine, so they'll gladly ticket you for just a few MPH over.

    On the speedometer calibration issue, I know my 2007 Ford Ranger reads fast; I have a ScanGauge II that plugs into the OBD port, and the speedometer consistently reads about 10% faster than what I'm doing. Roadside speed readers and a dynamometer test have confirmed that the data coming from the ScanGauge/OBD is accurate. Consequently I use my ScanGauge to make sure I'm staying within the range my local cops won't ticket for ;)

    @JohnZwinck: "a slightly under-reading speedometer is unlikely to correct its behavior in accordance with the law" - right, and slightly dysfunctional brakes are unlikely to fix themselves in accordance with the law, as well. Isn't the common understanding of "device X is legally required to do Y" that the *owner* or *driver* has to ensure that the device works as legally required, or otherwise they are liable for any consequences of the miscalibration?

    @O.R.Mapper: definitely. However, regular average people would never pay to have an under-reading speedometer fixed voluntarily. They may be obligated by law to have it fixed, but first they'd have to notice. As a practical matter, I stand behind my claim of "your speedometer may be under-reporting," unless of course you have checked it yourself or bought the car new and know for sure you haven't changed the tire size at all.

    Cops may be less lenient in school zones, as well.

    hobbs: unfortunately it's allowed to read up to 10% high, which is not "slight" but really significant at high speeds!! And at least in europe, virtually all cars read ~8% higher. This is why a lot of people in highways are going a good 10 kph below the limit.. I measured the error in my car, and I if it says 141 kph I'm going 130 (the speed limit in highways) -- a 7 mph difference!!

    @BrianKnoblauch "Well you was doing fifty-five in a fifty-four. License and registration and step out of the car"

    +1, although as **a** member of a "democracy" each of us commoners is powerless and utterly trampled upon.

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