Law enforcement uses a few different methods to determine how fast vehicles are traveling and whether to write a speeding ticket. They often use a radar unit and check the "SMD" (for "speed measuring device") box on the front of the ticket. Sometimes they use a "pace", which is when the officer follows a suspected speeding vehicle at a constant distance for a certain period of time and using the officer's vehicle speedometer to determine speed.
What is a pace?
Conducting a pace is much more complicated than obtaining a radar reading. If you received a speeding ticket after a pace, you should consider whether your speed measurement was accurate. Accuracy depends on several factors including:
- Has the officer been trained in conducting pace speed measurement?
- Did the officer follow you for a sufficient distance for an accurate pace reading?
- Did the officer maintain a constant distance?
- Did you, and the officer, maintain a constant speed?
- Is the officer's speedometer calibrated, when was it calibrated and how?
- Did the officer properly document the pace?
The officer's failure to meet those requirements or even a failure to document compliance with those requirements can give an experienced attorney more than enough to successfully challenge the speeding ticket. For example, was the officer following you at dusk or at night? Visual cues are reduced at night, making it harder for an officer to keep an accurate pace with your vehicle. Similarly, difficult or poor road conditions, such as areas with a lot of traffic, curves or hills can make it very difficult to conduct an accurate pace.
Speedometers are rarely accurate
The key piece of evidence in any pace speeding ticket is the officer's speedometer. Unfortunately, officer speedometers are rarely calibrated on a regular basis. In fact, few police departments (the Washington State Patrol being one exception) have a policy for regular speedometer calibration.
In addition, multiple factors can decrease the accuracy of the officer's speedometer reading. For example, the wear on the officer's tires, as small as that seems, can affect the speedometer reading by several MPH. Ironically, one of the factors that increases speedometer inaccuracy is high speed - the higher the speed, the more inaccurate the speedometer reading
Don't just take the word of a Washington speeding ticket lawyer, a recent study published in the Journal of Research of the National Institute of Standards and Technology found that the higher the measured speed, the higher the level of uncertainty. In other words, the faster you and the officer are traveling, the less accurate the speed measurement.
So, if you get any speeding ticket, especially one with the "pace"" box checked, don't just pay it! Consult a traffic ticket attorney to help you challenge the ticket, save your insurance rates and protect your driving record.