Speed Limit or Flow of Traffic?

traffic tickets in springfieldNo one wants a speeding ticket, yet we constantly find ourselves on roads where many people exceed the posted speed limit. The quandary is, do you drive the speed limit or just go with the flow of traffic that is frequently 10-15 mph over the limit?

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Generally this situation occurs on turnpikes and interstates as opposed to surface roads. This is because we use these major thoroughfares to get where we are going quickly and efficiently, with the emphasis on quickly.

Speeders often justify their behavior by hiding behind the defense that “everyone else was speeding” or “I didn’t want to cause an accident by being a slow-moving vehicle on the interstate”. The question is, if you are pulled over, will the police officer buy that excuse?


In every state the posted speed limit is just that, a limit. The municipality or road engineers have determined that the posted speed limit is the highest speed that drivers and their vehicles can safely navigate the terrain of that particular stretch of highway. As drivers, our arguments against that logic are numerous:

  • But what if the engineers were just being a little too cautious in setting the limit? You and countless others have driven much faster along that road and done just fine.
  • Slow drivers are a menace. If we all drive the speed limit, then we will bunch up and create wrecks. We need people driving various speeds to keep traffic moving safely.
  • The speed limit is only for old people or bad driving conditions.
  • If lots of people are speeding, then I will just blend in and not get caught.

What most people forget is that it is acceptable to drive under the speed limit. The speed limit is the fastest you can go, but it is not mandatory for everyone to go that fast.

Most of us WANT to go that fast, if not faster, so speeders tend to become VERY impatient with anyone with the audacity to choose to drive a little under the limit.

On surface roads, you see a lot of tailgating and horn honking to prod slower drivers into “doing their duty” and drive at the posted limit at the very least. The ONLY place where driving much under the posted limit is illegal is on the freeways and turnpikes. Signs will often post a minimum speed to help ensure traffic safety. If a minimum is posted, then obviously it is acceptable to drive under the speed limit.

So.. What are we doing wrong?

Can we drive over the speed limit if we are just keeping up with the flow of traffic and successfully avoid a speeding ticket? The answer is unequivocally NO! You may be lucky and avoid a ticket for a long time, but keeping up with the flow of traffic is not a defense.

There is also no industry-wide practice of a “grace” interval between the posted speed limit and where an officer starts writing tickets. Every officer uses his or her own discretion when pulling over a speeder in a crowd of speeders. One officer might have a personal policy of not writing tickets for anything under 15 mph over the posted limit, where another might set the mark at 10 mph.

Why would they pick out your vehicle from the herd?

If the officer is moving and comes up behind a pack of cars all moving at the same speed above the posted limit, they will probably stop the one that they think is the easiest to catch. The chosen vehicle depends on the configuration of the road at that moment, the dispersal of the cars, and the types of vehicles involved.

You may think that if everyone is speeding, then it seems unfair for the police officer to randomly select you to receive the ticket. The “everyone else was speeding” excuse will NOT work. When asked, one officer said, “When I go fishing, I don’t expect to catch all the fish. I just snag one at a time from all the available fish.” If you are speeding, then you become an available fish.


Additionally, the excuse that “people driving the speed limit when others are speeding create more wrecks” is completely unfounded. Statistics support the notion that speeding creates far more wrecks and of greater magnitude because of excessive speed.

Another commonly held belief is that speeding tickets are issued more frequently at the end of the month to fulfill quotas. According to sources, this is usually not the case.

Yes, quotas can be real, but officers probably aren’t rushing to meet them at the end of the month. And there might be some places where you’re more likely to get a traffic ticket, but it probably has nothing to do with a mad dash for citations at the end of the month.

The only absolutely sure-fire way to avoid a speeding ticket is to obey the law: don’t drive over the posted speed limit.