A speed trap is a colloquial name for an area of a roadway where law enforcement is monitoring speed limits more closely than average, usually in a way that results in more people getting pulled over for speeding than normal scenarios. This can be because officers have picked a particular place on a roadway that is convenient for them to inconspicuously monitor drivers, or because the particular portion of the roadway chosen has qualities that make it more severe or easy for drivers to violate the posted limit.
By law, a person must slow down to a speed that complies with the speed limit before passing a speed limit sign, rather than after. The purpose of the sign is to alert the driver from a distance that the speed limit is different after the sign, so the deceleration should occur before passing the sign. Sometimes when a speed limit change is drastic, there will even be pre-warning signs that say “Reduced Speed Ahead” to assist drivers with safely decelerating between speed zones.
Read below to learn more about speed traps in Prince William County. If you have been charged with speeding, reach out to an experienced traffic lawyer today.
There are various portions of Interstate 66 and Interstate 95 in Prince William County where the posted speed limit changes in general, or due to construction zones and/or highway safety corridors. There are also portions of these interstates with hill crests such that drivers will not be able to see a stationed police car monitoring traffic until they hit the crest of a hill and it is too late to slow down. These often serve as speed traps for law enforcement officers to exploit. Another notable speed trap in Prince William County is the Occoquan bridge, which has a very steep decline as well as changing speed limits on either side of the bridge.
Sometimes people refer to speed traps to describe a scenario where officers are positioned near a changing speed limit zone and immediately pulling people over who have not fully decelerated to comply with the new limit. Other times people are referring to speed zones that do not change, however, changes in traffic patterns or roadway elevation within the zone commonly result in a person increasing their speed above the limit on a portion of the roadway where police are waiting to catch offending drivers.
Prince William County police officers do sometimes wait in areas where the speed limit changes by ten or more mph in an effort to catch drivers who are speeding. Many drivers view this as a speed trap tactic, but officers will respond that there is a safety-based reason for the speed change, so enforcement of those speed limits is actually more important than catching speeders within a constant speed zone area.
The purpose of speed traps in Prince William County is to make it easier for officers to catch drivers exceeding the speed limit than it would be if officers were out patrolling or monitoring normal stretches of roadway. Sometimes this is perceived by drivers as a deceptive practice, but the counterargument is that speed traps exist because certain areas of roadway are inherently more in need of speed limit enforcement due to unique safety considerations or traffic patterns.
Being caught in a speed trap is never a technical legal defense to a speed-based charge, although in some instances it can favorably impact negotiations or trial. The impact of a speed trap will largely depend on how unreasonable the speed trap is to comply with under the circumstances, and how dangerous or obvious the accused driving behavior was at the time of exceeding the limit.
Call an accomplished lawyer today to learn more about Prince William County speed traps and how an attorney could help you.