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How Do You Get Out of a Speeding Ticket?

Washington State Patrol

Summer is a great time for a road trip. But if you’re someone who tends to put the pedal to the metal, spending more time on the highway probably increases your chance of being pulled over for speeding. Which raises the question: what does it take to avoid getting issued a ticket?

When we put the question to KPLU Facebook users, we heard a wide range of answers. One commenter said, "It helps if you apologize." Another said, "If the driver is young and cute," he or she is likely to get off with just a warning.

Washington State Trooper Chris Webb laughed when I mentioned these comments to him.

He says there are a lot of myths about speeding tickets. For example, according to surveys conducted for the Washington State Patrol, a large percentage of residents believe the primary reason for issuing speeding tickets is to raise revenue. Webb says that's simply not true, that very little of the revenue even goes into the State Patrol budget. He says issuing tickets is about promoting safe driving.

Webb did say there are things you can do to make sure the stop goes quickly, such as being polite and courteous and making sure your hands are visible to the officer at all times.

He says one of the biggest problems is that people aren't very organized when it comes to making sure their license, registration and proof of insurance are easily accessible.

“People will have five registrations from five different years and 10 different insurance cards from 10 different years, and they'll be thumbing through all that,” Webb said.

Troopers Have Discretion

Webb says it is true that state troopers are given a lot of discretion when it comes to issuing a ticket or giving someone a warning.

"What might be a serious violation for one trooper maybe isn’t for another,” Webb said.

Or maybe there are special circumstances.

Trooper Salutes Driver Going 142 MPH

It was about nine years ago. James Marx, who was in the Army, was home on leave from Iraq. With dust still on his boots, he rented a Volvo V-70 and headed for the east side of the mountains to visit friends.

As he crossed over Snoqualmie Pass on Interstate 90, he says he decided to see how fast the car could go. When the state trooper stopped him, Marx had been clocked going 142 miles an hour.

“He came up to my window and asked me what on Earth the hurry was. And I said, 'None whatsoever. I’m just happy to be here,'” Marx said.

The trooper told Marx he was a veteran himself, that he’d served in Iraq during Desert Storm in 1990.  After some Army chit chat, the trooper got down to the business at hand. 

"He eyed me and my uniform and told me, 'Maybe I'm just seeing double today. And if I'm seeing double, that must mean that you were going half what I thought, which still puts you 1 mile over the speed limit, so slow the heck down, son,'" Marx said.

Then the trooper concluded the encounter, according to Marx, by clicking his heels together, standing at attention and giving Marx a salute.

Marx had avoided getting a speeding ticket.

However, the officer did tell him to stay safe, which, according to the Washington State Patrol, is the main message they try to impart to drivers everyday, both through verbal warnings and actual tickets.

One thing Webb says people should keep in mind is that "it's human beings behind the wheel of the patrol car."

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.