6 Expert Tips for Escaping Traffic Tickets

You’re meeting someone or trying to get to work and running 10 minutes late, so you’re doing your best to make up for lost time. Maybe you’re driving a little (or a lot) over the speed limit, streaking through yellow lights (or red) or “pausing” at stop signs.

You’re almost to your destination when you hear a police siren behind you and see the familiar white and red lights in your rear view mirror. Need some handy lines to save you from a hefty fine?

Check out the ones below by Erik Feder, author of The Feder Guide to Where to Park Your Car in Manhattan (and Where Not to Park It!), and founder of the website TiredOfParkingTickets.com.

Don’t Accept Your Fate

Maybe you’re totally innocent, and maybe you’re not, but don’t accept your fate after you’re handed the citation. Appeal it no matter what. Be polite and to-the-point in your written statement of what happened. Chances are, even if it isn’t dismissed you may be able to reduce your fee. Have a witness willing to write something on your behalf? Even better!

Check for Inaccuracies

According to Feder, having the wrong date, time, make/model of your car, or even your license plate number can void your citation altogether. Says Feder, “No joke, 20-25 percent of the time, tickets are inaccurate—so people have to check.” If everything looks correct, proceed with the instructions from number one above.

Be Honest

Sometimes, there’s no way out, and the only thing you can do is tell the truth. An officer is much more likely to let you go with a warning if you admit you were in the wrong, you’re sorry, and it won’t happen again. Steve Pomper, a police officer in the Seattle area and author of Is There a Problem, Officer? A Cop’s Inside Scoop on Avoiding Traffic Tickets says, “Cops deal with people from all walks of life, from every strata of society, every single day. They’re not easily fooled or manipulated. It’s a relief to hear honesty and see a driver taking responsibility.”

Mind Your Manners

Cops deal with lawyers and judges all the time. Threatening them with legal action or calling your lawyer doesn’t scare them, so don’t even try it. You may end up with an even bigger fine than when you got pulled over, and the officer can tack extra charges on, especially if your verbal altercation leads to a physical one.

Hold Back the Tears

It’s an old-wives tale that a woman crying in front of a male officer guarantees they will slide out of a ticket. Don’t try it. According to Pomper, “If the officer thinks you’re crying to manipulate him, out comes the ticket book.” Instead, follow the instructions from number three above.

Have Documents Ready

There’s nothing scarier for an officer than approaching a car where he doesn’t know if the driver has a gun, knife, or other object to attack him. Take the stress off by having your driver’s license, car registration, and proof of insurance ready to hand him, and keep your hands on the steering wheel, with the engine off. Pomper says an extra way to butter him or her up is to leave your dome light on if it’s dark out. “It takes some of the mystery out of the stop,” says Pomper.