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‘What’s a good excuse to use if I am pulled over for speeding?’ and other FAQ

(KIRO 7)

From speed limit reductions on city streets to automated photo enforcement, the City of Seattle is cracking down on speeding. KIRO 7 spoke to Capt. Eric Sano of the Seattle Police Department about speed enforcement:

Where would I likely get caught speeding in Seattle?

When you think of speeding tickets, you might picture a “speed trap” — an officer pulled over on the side of the road, monitoring the speeds of drivers passing by. But an officer does not have to be present for you to receive a citation.

Speeding cameras have caught thousands of drivers who drive too fast in school zones. During the 2016-17 school year alone, more than 67,800 speed zone tickets were issued to Seattle drivers caught by speed cameras at school crosswalks.

Since the start of the current school year, fixed speed cameras in school zones have led to the filing of least 1,000 citations at each of the following areas: 24th Avenue East near Montlake Elementary, Boren Avenue South near Bailey Gatzert Elementary School, 15th Avenue South near Mercer Middle School and Greenwood Avenue North near Broadview Thomson K-8 School (Source: Seattle Municipal Court).

The fine for a school zone infraction is $234.

What’s a good excuse to use if I am pulled over by an officer for speeding?

Don’t bother making up an excuse. SPD officers have heard them all. One common excuse is “I wasn’t aware of the speed limit.”

“That’s not a very good excuse,” Sano said. “SDOT has signs all over the place.”

Another common one is, “I’m sorry, officer. I am running late for work.”

In response to that, Sano said, “The whole objective is to get to work. By speeding, you’re putting yourself in a situation where you could get into a crash.”

Other Seattle police have previously acknowledged that drivers do not have to answer questions at a traffic stop outside of what’s necessary.

Drivers must show their license, registration and proof of insurance when asked. The American Civil Liberties Union – and police – say to keep your hands where officers can see them.

“Officers can also ask you to step outside of the car, and they may separate passengers and drivers from each other to question them and compare their answers, but no one has to answer any questions,” ACLU staff said in a statement. “The police cannot search your car unless you give them your consent, which you do not have to give, or unless they have ‘probable cause’ to believe (i.e., knowledge of facts sufficient to support a reasonable belief) that criminal activity is likely taking place, that you have been involved in a crime, or that you have evidence of a crime in your car. If you do not want your car searched, clearly state that you do not consent. The officer cannot use your refusal to give consent as a basis for doing a search.”

How many miles per hour over the posted speed limit would I have to drive before being pulled over?

Sano said SPD doesn’t have a specific number. Obviously, if an officer sees you driving double the speed limit, you will probably get pulled over, he said. Going 1 mph over the speed limit is a ticketable offense, but SPD probably won’t cite you for that.

Sano said the appropriate speed is based on a number of factors, like whether you’re driving in a school zone when children would be walking around, driving in the pouring rain, driving in heavy traffic or driving in an area with a large number of pedestrians.

Why did Seattle lower speed limits last year?

Last year, Seattle lowered the residential speed limit from 25 mph to 20 mph and lowered the arterial speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph. The speed reductions were part of Seattle’s Vision Zero campaign to end all traffic-related deaths and injuries on city streets by 2030.

“Excess of speed leads to traffic collisions with a much higher rate of injury or death,” Sano said.

According to the city of Seattle, pedestrians are twice as likely to live after being hit by a car driving 25 mph than a car driving 30 mph.

Sano said that regardless of whether there are speeding cameras or not, you should always drive at a safe speed. It could save someone’s life.

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