How to get out of a speeding fine
Friday, 5 July 2019
So, you've been pulled over by the police and you're waiting for the officer to mosey alongside the driver's window and say: "Good evening sir or madam, in a hurry, are we?"
This is the crucial moment where your response could be the difference between being lumbered with a speeding ticket or getting off with a warning.
Obviously, you'll do yourself no favours if your idea of a credible explanation is along the lines of:
- I'm trying to get home for the second half of the footy;
- aliens have requested my immediate presence on Star Colony X3Pi;
- I'm busting for a wee;
- today is the shortest day of the year so it only seems like I was speeding.
Events such as verifiable family/medical emergencies are more likely to earn understanding and leniency via exercising of the police's discretionary power.
There's also a lot to be said for admitting you've made a mistake – especially if your clocked speed is not ridiculous – followed by an apology and assurance that an invaluable lesson has been learned.
Stay calm, be polite and non-aggressive, and if you can back all that up with a driving record bereft of any mention of experience with getaway cars, then that won't hurt either.
And if you still get a ticket, the good news is that you have every right to challenge it, although be warned: the process is a challenge in itself.
Our need for speed
The best way to avoid a speeding ticket is … wait for it … by not speeding.
While it sounds simple, every day thousands of Australian drivers ignore that no-brainer and instead press down just a little harder on the accelerator.
Speeding fines contribute well over $1 billion each year to Australian government coffers, a massive cost for something so easily reduced by nothing more than a less enthusiastic right foot.
According to the Australian Centre for Automotive Safety Research, half of all crashes caused by speeding occur at just 1-10kmh over the speed limit.
Meanwhile, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that, for a car travelling at 65kmh rather than 60kmh for an average 16.6km home-work commute, you'll save a grand total of 77 seconds.
That's a miniscule amount of time to risk a fine, loss of demerit points, the potential loss of your licence, an accident, injury or, worst of all, loss of life.
Even so, the fact is that not everyone who receives a speeding notice, whether on the spot or in the mail, is actually guilty of being Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms L. Foot.
Mistakes do occur, injustices happen, equipment does go bung and maybe you weren't even in the car that's been snapped by the speed camera.
A challenging challenge
Here in Australia, each state has its own stipulations – although they are all very similar – when it comes to disputing a speeding infringement.
In Queensland, for example, you need to fill out the Election for Court section on the back of the notice and send it to the address provided – you have 28 days from the date of issue.
Eventually, you'll receive a summons and, assuming you intend to carry through with your challenge, you'll front up to court, plead not guilty, and a court date will be fixed.
Just remember, no matter how many episodes of Matlock or Law and Order you've watched, probably the best advice is to engage a lawyer from the outset to manage every preparatory detail and then conduct your defence towards having the offence dismissed or at least reduced.
The burden of proof
In nearly all cases, the court will be provided with a certificate confirming the condition and accuracy of the speed camera, and this always makes for compelling evidence.
However, it is still up to the prosecutor to conduct the case against you, which includes proving the speed limit on the road at the time of your infringement; proving the speed limit was exceeded, and proving that you were behind the wheel.
Your defence, meanwhile, may be based on a number of factors: perhaps your car or its licence plates were stolen; perhaps someone else was driving; or perhaps there's another reason you believe to be sound enough to warrant coming to court.
The cost of the contest
Challenging a speeding infringement can be expensive – lawyers aren't cheap, you'll probably need time off work, and other costs arise if you lose.
That's why it's often the case that people decide the cost of the ticket is much cheaper than the cost of the challenge.
In the end, the lowdown is to slow down, because – with occasional anomalies aside -- the best way to avoid a speeding ticket is to obey the speed limits.
Thumbnail image: Universal Studios
Michael Jacobson is an award-winning Queensland-based writer.
His appreciation for motoring began as a young journalist covering racing from Simmons Plains in Tasmania.
Over the years he has interviewed many Australian and international motoring greats.
He has also been driven around Lakeside Raceway at ferocious speed, circumnavigated the Gold Coast Indy circuit at more than 200kmh and managed to squeeze 365,000 kilometres out of a Toyota Starlet.