Legal Ways to Beat SoCal Speed Limits
Chip Yost, KTLA News
November 20, 2008
LOS ANGELES -- If you've had it with lead-footed drivers paying no attention to the posted speed limits on your street, you may want to read the rest of this article before calling your city council representative to complain.
"People throw up their hands ... and say: 'We've complained about speed and what did you do? You increased the speed limit! That doesn't solve the problem,'" said Councilman Dennis Zine, recounting the numerous times he's confronted the issue.
Also, if you're one of those lead-footed drivers, you'll probably want to read the rest of this article before paying that ticket.
"If you look at the statute and know a little bit - just a little bit - about the law, you have a chance of prevailing in your traffic ticket," said defense attorney Sherman Ellison, who specializes in fighting traffic tickets.
Both the speed limit and the speeding ticket are connected to California's speed trap laws.
Laws that say if cops are going to enforce speed limits using radar or laser guns, then those speed limits need to reflect the speed most people are driving.
In other words, if engineers go out to your street and find most of the cars are driving 42 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone, then the speed limit needs to be raised.
That means, complaining about speeders on your street could back fire.
"Basically, if 85 percent of the cars are traveling at that speed, that's what they're going to post it at.
Other circumstances may come into play where they can reduce it, but normally, they'll go by that 85 percent factor," Councilman Zine said.
That's why when Councilman Zine asked LAPD to start using more radar on Wells Drive, the result was a proposal by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to raise the speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 35 miles per hour.
The proposal has drawn protests from many people who think the whole system for setting speed limits needs to be changed.
"It's hard to believe it's from reasonably intelligent people responsible for transportation.
I mean, it's complete voodoo to think that by making something legal you've done away with the problem," said Stephen Box, a consultant to different neighborhood councils that have been fighting such speed limit increases.
Box is currently protesting speed limit increases being proposed for Wells Drive and a number of other city streets, and supports a change in state law that would set new rules on how speed limits are determined.
But like it or not, for now it's the law, and knowing a little bit about how it works could help you.
For instance, knowing that Victory Blvd. between Valley Circle Blvd. and Shoup Ave. has been surveyed, while the section of Victory Blvd. just east of Shoup Ave. has not, could help you get out of a ticket if a police officer using a radar or laser gun pulls you over for speeding on the section of the road that hasn't been surveyed.
List of Surveyed Roads
The court loses jurisdiction, the officer is incapable of testifying, and they cannot present evidence," defense attorney Ellison says. However, Ellison says the more common way to get out of a speeding ticket is to argue that the posted speed limit on a street that has been surveyed is wrong.
He says you do this by asking to see the speed survey data collected by city engineers and figuring out what the "critical speed" is - that is, the speed that 85 percent of cars traveling on a street are driving.
Ellison said on Laurel Canyon between Mulholland and Ventura Blvd., he's gotten about a half a dozen speeding tickets thrown out over the years by showing that the critical speed indicates that the posted speed limit should be 40 miles per hour, not 35 MPH as it is currently posted.
"The posted speed limit is illegal and they can't use radar or laser, and that has been time and time again...cases that have been dismissed in the courts based upon the speed limits have been too low," Ellison said.
Engineers at the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) acknowledge that the critical speed on that section of Laurel Canyon is 40 miles per hour, but they argue that other factors such as limited visibility because of the many curves on the street and the lack of sidewalks make it appropriate - and legal - to keep the speed limit at 35 miles per hour.
Whatever the case, none of this means you can ignore with impunity the posted speed limits on city streets.
The law only says police can't use radar or laser guns to enforce speed limits on streets that haven't been surveyed.
Police can still use other methods - such as pacing - to determine your speed and give you a ticket.
As for the speed limit increase proposals on streets like Wells Drive, those are still in limbo.
Stephen Box wants the city to wait for a possible revision to state law that is being discussed before making the changes.
Councilman Zine also supports changing state laws, and today introduced a motion at city council supporting a review of how to improve the way speed limits are determined.