A persistent myth is that Texas Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol cops don’t arrest (pull over) motorists for less than 10 over the speed limit. It’s false, and I have three cases in point to prove it. Note that in each case, I was the passenger.
October 1995: Driver got pulled over and ticketed by TxDPS on I-45 in the middle of nowhere for doing 74 in a 65. (This was a couple of months before the statutory rural limit went to 70 mph.)
June 1996: Driver got pulled over by TxDPS on FM 217 headed eastbound into Palo Duro State Park for doing 77 in a 70. Fortunately, the driver got a warning, but I’ll bet it’s because of the clerical collar he wore when taking his driver’s license photo. (It’s a legit; he is really ordained clergy.)
Typical rural Texas speed limit sign with the goofball night speed limit.
April 2006: Driver got pulled over by TxDPS and ticketed for doing 74 in a 65. This one is particularly egregious. Texas has a goofy 65 mph night speed limit that takes effect 30 minutes after sunset. This guy wrote the ticket at 8:57 PM, a mere 9 minutes after the 65 went into effect. (9 minutes earlier was “30 minutes after sunset” on that day, so the driver would have been doing 74 in a 70, an unlikely ticket.) Furthermore, he strictly enforced this arbitrary limit (arbitrary meaning it was set by politicians in the 1963 Texas Legislature, not by a traffic engineer) on a deserted stretch of 4 lane, almost perfectly flat, median-separated US 67 east of San Angelo. (Maybe 2 cars passed during the entire about 10 minute traffic stop?) To top it off, the cop felt the need to remind the car’s occupants that “I am the law and you are nothing” with a gruff and unfriendly demeanor. Just think how you would have felt with this gruff guy blaring his flashlight in your face at 8:57 PM in the middle of nowhere. He came across as a young punk just trying to fill a quota. Heaven forbid anyone do 74 on a very good road in the middle of nowhere!
Not all cops are as hard assed as this. In another case, I know of someone who was pulled over by TxDPS for 91 in a 70 on I-20 east of Abilene. (This guy admits that he was knowingly doing 91.) The guy was polite, and the trooper wrote the ticket for 81 in a 70.
I have been pulled over five times in my life but have only received one ticket. The one ticket was from the only time I was pulled over by a TxDPS officer, and it was for, you guessed it, speeding. The four times I didn’t get a ticket are:
- 1995: Harris County Precinct 2 Constable pulled me over for illegal right turn. (I should have turned into the rightmost lane but unthinkingly turned into the next lane over.) The illegal turn was just a pretense for pulling me over to see why I was driving through South Bend, an at-the-time almost deserted neighborhood that was cleared out because of its proximity to the BRIO toxic waste site. This neighborhood had a lot of theft problems, and it didn’t help that my ’74 Nova looked quite ratty at the time.
- 1998 (?): Pulled over by an SMU cop, although the reason was bogus. He said I ran a stop sign when in fact I had been stopped at the stop sign for a few seconds waiting for a pedestrian to pass by. (It’s actually a two-part intersection, and I think he may have thought there was a stop sign at the second part when there wasn’t.) He also accused me of speeding, but SMU cops do not have radar guns or any other speed detection equipment, and he wasn’t pacing me, so I don’t know where he got that from.
- 2001: Pulled over by Highland Park Police. Highland Park is an enclave city inside of Dallas. It does everything within its powers to discourage through traffic by clogging its thoroughfares. In particular, Highland Park forces drivers to engage in technically illegal maneuvers to get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time. In my case, I was approaching a street where I needed to make a left turn. There is a bizarrely short left turn lane at this signal. Most motorists partially cut over a double yellow line to pass several cars that are always stacked up at the signal to get into the left turn lane. That way you can make the left turn at the next green instead of waiting for two cycles–one cycle to approach the signal and get into the left turn lane, and another cycle to actually get a left turn signal. (Cities without such anti-motorist mindsets would have made the left turn lane much longer or used a “suicide lane.”) I did this maneuver, and the Highland Park cop pulled me over immediately. Once he saw that my driver’s license said I lived in University Park (I was renting a house from SMU at the time), his stated reason for pulling me over was that my inspection sticker looked funny–totally bogus because there’s no way he could have seen it from where he was waiting. Anyway, it seem that if you live in either Park city, you get a free pass on traffic laws. I wasn’t ticketed. He just said I need to fix my sagging inspection sticker.
The bumper sticker that may have helped get me out of a ticket.
2002: Pulled over by a Hancock County, IL sheriff’s deputy. He said I was doing 55 in a 45. It wouldn’t surprise me if I really was doing that. One reason is that my ’74 Nova’s speedometer was acting up, and being over 700 miles from home, there’s no way I could fix it in a hurry. The other reason is that I am used to Texas’s speed laws, where in many but not all cases the speed limit rises as the need for lower speeds diminishes. Illinois is different: the speed limit can stay arbitrarily low all the way to the city limit sign even if the city limits extend well into undeveloped areas. On this road, IL 96, the speed limit stayed 45 well past any practical indication that you were within the Nauvoo city limits. I was pulled over right before the 55 mph speed zone started, and the road was deserted and obviously rural. The deputy let me go with only a verbal warning to drive carefully. He said he liked my “FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS VOTE DEMOCRAT” bumper sticker.
This is a better idea than blindly assuming that TxDPS gives motorists a lot of leeway.
A recent TxDPS traffic stop document showed that nearly half of all TxDPS citations are speeding citations. While it may seem surprising that such an enormous number of violations are so narrowly focused on only one of many types of moving violations, this is apparently common practice. Numbers for Houston and Austin suggest their cops also use about half their moving violation traffic tickets on speeding.
So what is the grand summary? It may pay to use a good radar detector. Even better, you don’t need to shell out a lot to get a good detector. The BEL Express 795, $80 at Circuit City, appears to do about as well as $300+ detectors.