Saturday’s Question

Hi Motorcop,

My question:I read somewhere that you’ll be pulled over only if you’re going faster than 10mph over the speed limit. Is this true?I’ve noticed that the cops tend to exceed the speed limit themselves in the city/county by about 5/10 mph. And one time I was pulled over (for bad registration), by CHP I think, and they put both the “posted speed limit” and my speed at 45 mph when I was actually doing about 45 in a 40 zone. And does it depend on the speed limit, like doing 45 in a 35 is worse than doing 55 in a 45? I’m in CA, if it’s just a regional thing.

Thanks, August

Okay. Well, first off, I’d like to thank August and the rest of you that submitted questions. I’ll continue to accept any and all questions you may have and, depending on the amount, I’ll update at least weekly.

To August’s question.

CVC 22350 states, “No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.”

There are a couple different things to consider with regard to your question. One is Department Policy. The other is spirit vs. letter of the law. Every department is different and thus have different policies. I’m not, nor have I ever been, CHP. I have, however, had occasion to talk to one or two. Their policy regarding speed (and I assume it is strictly regarding speeding on the freeway) distinguishes between may and must cite. My figures could be off a bit, since its been awhile since we talked about it, but, if memory serves, I believe if the driver is traveling between 70 MPH and 75 MPH (in a posted 65MPH zone), the officer has the discretion to cite (think may). If the driver is traveling over 75 MPH, department policy states they must stop and cite. Now, my numbers may be off (it may be 80, not 75, but I’m not positive), but the principle remains.

My department differs. We don’t usually patrol the freeways. That’s not to say we can’t. We are state sworn officers at the end of the day, but we typically leave that to CHP. My department doesn’t have a policy regarding how fast is too fast. As a Motor in Town, I’m left with a lot of leeway. 22350 is fairly vague and seems to lean more towards the spirit side of the argument. Allow me to explain…

The spirit of the law is more like what the overall intention of the law is. For example, is driving 40MPH in a 35MPH zone speeding? Depends. Is it raining? Is it foggy? Are there a ton of pedestrians? What’s the roadway surface like? It can vary day to day. The spirit of 22350 seems to be that a driver just shouldn’t drive dangerously. What’s dangerous to you may not be dangerous to a NASCAR driver.

Letter of the law is much more black and white. If you do x,y, or z, you have committed a crime. Something like running a red light is more in line with the letter of the law based simply on the way it is worded.

Another caveat to this is the 85th percentile in a traffic/engineering survey. Without getting too technical, a survey is basically what allows us to use Radar or Lidar in conjunction with speed enforcement on a given roadway. Within the survey is something called “critical speed” or the 85th percentile. defines percentile as “One of the values of a variable that divides the distribution of the variable into 100 groups having equal frequencies: 85 percent of the values lie at or below the 85th percentile, fifteen percent above it.” Basically, its a fancy mathematical way to determine the speed limit.

Say, for example, a road in Town has a speed limit of 30MPH. The critical speed may well be 35.67MPH. That means 85% of people are traveling at that speed or slower. At some point in the legislative process somebody smarter than me determined 35.67MPH justifies a speed limit of 30MPH. Why not 35MPH? Because then people would drive just a little faster than that. You see where it has the potential to go.

I won’t get into the issue of what defines a speed trap in this post, but it is related to surveys and 85th percentiles. You can delve into that subject in a past post. Now that I’ve said all this boring shit, I can only speak for what I do. Will I stop you and cite you for driving 10MPH over the limit? Maybe. It really depends on what 22350 mentions…weather, traffic, road surface, etc.

In the past, I have lowered the safe speed limit when it’s pissing rain. I don’t change the speed limit signs, but common sense should tell you if you can’t see 15′ ahead of you, maybe you should reduce your speed.

I have a cutoff speed for everywhere in Town. It wavers around the 13MPH mark, but again, it depends on the roadway and varying factors on any given day. With specific regard to your question, “I read somewhere that you’ll be pulled over only if you’re going faster than 10mph over the speed limit. Is this true?” No. It’s not true. Mostly.

And here’s a real mind fuck for you….I can stop you for going too slow, as well! I know, I’m totally blowing your mind right now!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

18 thoughts on “Saturday’s Question

  1. There's an old motorcop saying that goes "Nine you're fine, ten you're mine". To add to MC's answer (I work in a different, but nearby, town than MC), officers in my dept. are pretty damn generous, not stopping motorists until they are 14 or 15mph over the posted speed limit, but we don't have any policy whatsoever. Total officer discretion. I myself cite for 14 or 15 over, but will drop it down 1-3mph when it's raining or foggy or depending on the roadway as MC was alluding to. If it's in a school zone? "10 you're mine".

    Generally speaking I think if you're within 10 mph you're okay, 10+ you're risking a citation wherever you go. Except Oregon freeways. I've heard those guys are pretty damn tight up there.

  2. Some east coast states like Virginia and Pennsylvania are much tougher than this, particularly on interstates.

  3. And the best way to get a warning instead of a cite? Make me laugh–if you have a good sense of humor and can make me chuckle, you have an excellent chance of getting just a warning from me. After all, there's someone coming right behind you.

    The easiest way to GET a cite for certain? Have a pissy attitude or lie ('I was going the speed limit' or 'the light was green/yellow' etc.)

  4. "May cite" vs "must cite." Man I wish I had gray areas. "Must transport"vs"May transport" what a dream!

    Great question and fantastic answer MC. Nice addition to the blog.

  5. In addition to citing for speeding, are there any vehicles that Law Enforcement tend to pull over more often?

    I've often wondered if the guy in the red ferrari gets pulled over way more often than the mom driving the minivan.

  6. I certainly wish y'all would pull over the slow traffic cloggers more often! 🙂 Where's a cop when you need one??? ha ha ha. Thanks for the informative and interesting post.

  7. Bus Driver:

    You're alluding to the urban myth that red cars get pulled over more often than others. It is total unequivocal horse puckey. The red ferrari or corvette or whatever only gets pulled over if it is violating the law. If mom in the minivan is going 15+ over the limit, guess what she is getting stopped every bit as much as the red ferrari.

    The only cars that get pulled over more often are ones with dirtbags in them. If I see a dirtbag driving a car with a brake light out, and it's next to grandpa with a brake light out, guess which one is getting stopped?

    Sorry MC I know it's your blog but thot I'd answer if ya don't mind….

  8. Damn motorcops…always jumping in on someone else's glory.


    If I minded, I wouldn't have posted the comment. Thx for the assist.

  9. Speaking for Oregon…. OSP is run on such a ratty shoestring, state is so broke, there are regularly-scheduled times of the day when there are no troopers on duty anywhere in the state. Not a good situation for those guys. That leaves much of the highway enforcement up to the counties and muni's, thus inject into each their local tendencies (or policies, if they exist).

    HM – "Must transport" vs "May transport" … Oh don't we wish! Getting that in writing would be devine!!

    Thanks MC (and FMC) for the info.

    – F4

  10. Fellow Motorcop and Motorcop,

    Thanks for the clarification!!!

    As a followup… what qualifies a person as a "dirtbag" as you say lol Pure curiosity here!

  11. A friend of mine did an experiment on the question of "do red cars get stopped more often?" He drove a red car and repainted it white after a fenderbender.

    He assures me that he went from many tickets to none with the paint job.

    But both tickets I've ever gotten were when driving the white minivan, not our other color cars.

  12. Dirtbag = driving a beat-up hoopdie with a marijuana leaf sticker, grizzled beard, and no shirt. Every light better be working on that bitch, or you are gonna be digging for your license and registration (assuming you aren't 14601.2) a lot.

    Seeing you quote that VC section gave me MAJOR wood, MC 😉

  13. NSDA pretty much got it right, which is saying a lot for a lawyer…not only had every light better be working, but both plates on the car VC 5200, no tint on the front side windows VC 26708(a), tread on the tires VC 27465b, plate properly mounted and not covered VC 5201, registered VC 4000(a), and a littany of other equipment violations to long to keep listing here. NSDA the section citations were just for you bud–go do your release 🙂

  14. The windshield had better not be cracked (26710VC), it better have a left side mirror (26709(a)), this really could go on for days.

    Modified exhaust, headlights too low, etc… etc…

  15. yada yada yada not improperly using the horn 27001, not having protruding sunglasses 23120 (one of my all time faves)….etc etc etc. Not being French…

  16. oh . . . mY . . . .GOD!!!!!!

    Any of you fellas got a cigarette? I don't smoke, but I feel like I need to ask. That, and Clorox wipes. You wouldn't BELIEVE the mess I just made. . .

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