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You might be wondering, “What is a speed trap?” Depending on the state, the definition of speed trap may have different meanings. In California, according to the DMV there are two ways of stating what a speed trap is:
1) A particular section of a highway measured as to distance and with boundaries marked, designated, or otherwise determined in order that the speed of a vehicle may be calculated by securing the time it takes the vehicle to travel the known distance.
2) A particular section of a highway with a prima facie speed limit that is provided by this code or by local ordinance, if that prima facie speed limit is not justified by an engineering and traffic survey conducted within five years prior to the date of the alleged violation, and enforcement of the speed limit involves the use of radar or any other electronic device that measures the speed of moving objects. This paragraph does not apply to a local street, road, or school zone.
For purposes of this section, a local street or road is one that is functionally classified as “local” on the “California Road Systems Maps,” that are approved by the Federal Highway Administration and maintained by the Department of Transportation. When a street or raod does not appear on the “California Road Systems Maps,” it may be defined as a “local stree or road” if it primarily provides access to abutting residential property and meets the following three conditions:
(A) Roadway width of not more than 40 feet.
(B) Not more than one-half of a mile of uninterrupted length. Interruptions shall include official traffic control signals.
(C) Not more than one traffic lane in each direction.
A lot of text to consume there, but here’s a simpler look into what the two definitions are pointing out. The first definition of a speed trap requires a police officer to time a vehicle passing between two points (such as a billboard or a tree) and determine (or guess) the speed of the vehicle through that process. However, California deems this method illegal and not does not give a reasonable stance on citing a traffic violation to a “speeding” vehicle.
The second definition states, a speed trap may not be placed on a Federal Highway with a maximum speed limit imposed (55, 65, or 75 MPH zones). If there is a speed trap placed in such an area, the officer must have proof of an Engineering and Traffic Survey noted for that specific section dated within the past 5 years (or 7 years depending on police officer’s recent radar training) or it is deemed illegal to place a speed trap in the area. Local streets, roads, or school zones are the only areas a speed trap may be placed, but under specific circumstances (as listed).
You are not guilty until proven beyond reasonable doubt. It is the police officer’s job to not only show his/her certificate on training using a Radar, Laser, or Lidar guns, but also provide the Engineering and Traffic Survey for the road and ensuring it is 5 years or younger (or 7 depending on the date of the officer’s radar training) for the speed trap to be placed.
This doesn’t mean California drivers are able to drive faster (which is not advisable), but it is a small bit of knowledge to prevent yourself accumulating more unwanted traffic tickets under your belt.