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10 Signs You’re Approaching a Speed Trap

Image by: USA Today

Taking a road trip and exploring the highways and byways should be a fun experience.  You should be able to see sights and gather memories that last decades.  One of those memories should not involve getting caught in a pesky speed trap.

Can you use an app instead?  Sure, but apps aren’t always reliable as they depend on other motorists to report the trap.  A radar detector?  Radar detectors are often good if you’re already not speeding.  If you can hear chirps, it’s possible they already have you in their sights.

Bottom line: Forewarned is forearmed.

1.) The road increases in the number of lanes

It was this situation that first prompted me to write this article.  I was driving home from work in an area where the road goes from 2-4 lanes.  Traffic was light at the time, and the temptation was definitely there to step on the gas a little bit.  And sure enough, there it was: A charcoal grey, unmarked, Dodge Charger with a police spotlight on the mirror.  Officers rely on this temptation in drivers, particularly when few people are on the road.

2.) Speed limit is 10 or more MPH lower than the road is seemingly designed for.

This is one where you’ll need to trust your instincts more than anything.  If you’re on a 5-lane road with wide lanes of travel (probably designed for 45-50 MPH), and the speed limit is 30 MPH, you should consider this a big red flag.  This is very likely a situation where officers, like in the first example, count on a driver’s initial instincts to go over the speed limit.   Take extra caution in the summer when there’s more greenery for cops to hide behind, and when hills are present.

3.) Yellow banner at the top and/or bottom of speed limit signs

These are usually seen on State and US Highways, but are seen in other areas too.  This is in indication that speed limits are strictly enforced.

4.) Brake lights ahead.

Pay attention when driving behind a few cars in the distance.  If you see brake lights for no obvious reason, there probably is a reason.  It’s often an officer in an obstructed location.  If not, it’s likely something else you should pay attention to, such as road debris.

5.) Oncoming traffic flashing headlights.

Have you ever seen a car in the opposite direction flashing its headlights?  This is an oncoming driver warning other drivers of something up ahead.  More often than not, it’s police running a radar gun.  I’ve seen it in other situations, such as an accident up ahead, or bad weather conditions.

6.) Sudden drop(s) in the speed limit for no apparent reason.

There are a number of legitimate reasons for speed limit drops.  Sometimes, it should really get your attention.

In the famous former speed trap town of Waldo, Florida, the speed limit dropped from 65 to 55, 55 to 45, then 45 to 35 in the central business district.  Leaving town it raised from 35 to 45, 45 to 55, lowered again from 55 to 45 near the north end of town, before making increases to 55 then to 65 miles per hour.  These speed limit adjustments were all within a span of 3 miles along US Highway 301; in a town of 1,000 people.  Waldo, due to its decades of ridiculous ticketing practices, had its police department disbanded in October of 2014, and is now being served by the Alachua County Sheriff’s Department.

Image by: Orlando Sentinel

7.) Are you the only driver on the road?  You are setting the precedent!

This should be of increased concern the larger the road is.  Ordinarily, officers wouldn’t bother patrolling such a road with such little traffic, but for some it can be an easy haul in order to issue a ticket.

8.) Overpasses–both over and under.

In some states, such as Georgia, it is legal for officers to sit atop overpasses to clock drivers below.  In other states, such as Florida, it is not legal practice.

Some other practices are legal, such as officers sitting behind retaining walls on overpasses clocking overpassing vehicles, and officers sitting behind embankments on underpasses.

9.) Low-flying small aircraft

In some areas, police will fly either small planes or helicopters over highways and will time cars in how long it takes to get from one white line to another.  The white lines that cross the road are a quarter-mile apart.  For instance, on a 60 MPH road, if you get from one white line to another in less than 15 seconds, technically you are speeding.  These aircraft typically are fairly easy to spot just above the horizon.

The chase comes when the gunner in the aircraft radios a description of the offending vehicle to a waiting squad car who then confirms identification and gives chase.

10.) A sign–literally, a sign.

Up ahead: Lawtey. Another well-known North Florida speed trap.
Up ahead: Lawtey. Another well-known North Florida speed trap.

Along Florida’s US Highway 301 is a string of towns known for harsh enforecement of speeding, including the aforementioned Waldo.

Billboards were put up by the American Automobile Association a several miles outside of a few towns warning drivers entering these towns.  AAA also warned about these towns to members seeking travel advice in their TripTik travel planners.

In Closing…

I have been a licensed driver since 1994, and–KNOCK ON WOOD–have never been pulled over for speeding.  Admittedly, I have had a lot of luck go my way in that time.  I have had close calls where I’ve checked my mirrors, my palms getting sweaty just waiting for those red-blues to appear.

Instincts have played a key role for me, and learning when to trust them and take heed.

A real secret weapon for me has been the use of cruise control when the open road seems just a little too tempting, setting it no more than six miles per hour above the posted speed limit.

Remember these signs, and incorporate them into your driving.  Make your road trips as pleasurable and as fun as they are in your daydreams.

Any tips of your own?  Any speed trap stories?  Please comment in the box below.

Also, please share this to your friends and family.  Take the highway–safely!

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