Many people are habitual speeders, travelling just a few miles over the posted speed limit, maybe even 10 mph over. Of course, even if you are just 1 mph over the speed limit, legally, you can be ticketed. And police officers generally deny that there is any sort of “cushion” built in to their decision to pull someone over or not.
But some local data shows that the reality is a little different. The Virginian-Pilot conducted an analysis of thousands of speeding-related convictions in the seven Hampton Roads, Virginia (VA) cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach during 2010 and uncovered some interesting things. One out of four speeding-related convictions involved charges of exceeding the speed limit by 20 mph or more, and, in nearly all the cases, tickets issued were given to drivers going at least 10 mph over the posted limit. In addition, state data showed that just 3 of every 1,000 speeders convicted in 2010 were driving within 10 mph of the posted speed limit. This seems to indicate that even if you are speeding, as long as you stay within 10 mph of the limit, you’re probably going to get away with it.
Without a doubt, speeding is a major issue for highway safety. In 2008, speeding was a factor in 30 percent of fatal crashes in Virginia. Other studies conducted in the state have also demonstrated that it isn’t always just speed that matters when it comes to assessing the risk of an accident occurring; rather, at least for interstate travel, what matters is how fast you are traveling compared to other cars and tracks on the road. It is differences in speed between different vehicles that often causes accidents on freeways.
Of course, for a traffic officer on the road, this information and other considerations are at play. Oftentimes, the decision to ticket or not is about a lot more than just the speed of the vehicle. Location matters, for example. Low-level speeding through a school zone is a lot different than going 5 mph over the limit on an interstate. The level of traffic might matter, too. A police officer has to decide if it is actually safe to pull someone over. And, of course, police officers have to prioritize. Is it better to ticket the person going 5 mph over or the person going 20 mph over?
The bottom line is that speeding is illegal, no matter how far over the speed limit you’re driving, so make sure you’re being safe at all times.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.