What Are Speeding Tickets?

Drivers who endanger the lives of others by speeding can face jail time.
Legal speeds for inner-city driving are lower than on highways.
Law enforcement often clocks a driver's speed.
Although rare, jail time is one possible consequence of repeated speeding.
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  • Written By: Pablo Garcia
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2014
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Speeding tickets are a paper citation issued to a motorist for exceeding a posted legal speed limit on a public road or street. A law enforcement officer writes and issues the ticket. In US jurisdictions, speeding is a “moving violation,” because it occurs while the motor vehicle is in operation as opposed to being stationary, as in parking offenses.

In the US and other countries, speeding tickets or citations include the date of the offense, the make and model of the vehicle, and its registration and license numbers. The tickets also includes identifying information about the driver and her personal driver’s license number. They will generally indicate how much over the speed limit the motorist was driving.

In many US jurisdictions, speeding tickets will include a date to appear in traffic court. Some states allow the motorist to plead guilty by signing the ticket and mailing it with the appropriate fine to the clerk of the court in the county or municipality in which the violation occurred. Some states require a personal appearance if the motorist’s speed was a certain amount over the posted speed limit. In some circumstances, the motorist may have to surrender her driver’s license as bond for the court appearance.


Traffic court is usually held separately from criminal court. However, traffic cases are not considered civil cases because they involve a violation of the law and can be punished with jail in addition to fines. Many US states and some European countries have a “point system” for moving violations, including a speeding ticket. If a motorist accumulates enough points through repeat offenses, it can result in the suspension or revocation of her driving privileges. Points charged against a driver’s license for speeding offenses can also increase a driver’s car insurance rates.

Fines and penalties for speeding tickets vary from state to state in the US. Most traffic laws are set by the various state legislatures, but there also may be local ordinances regarding speed limits. Jail is generally imposed only after repeat offenses or the failure to pay fines. The most serious punishment is usually reserved for motorists whose speed was so excessive as to pose a serious threat to the lives and safety of the public.

In the US, the speed limit on interstate highways is between fifty-five and seventy-five miles per hour. Although the western states of Nevada and Montana previously had no speed limits for some highways, all states in the US now have speed limits. In Europe, most countries have some legal speed for highways or motorways, and they are generally comparable to those in the US. In Germany, some parts of the Autobahn have only “advisory” speed limits. The Isle of Man, which lies in the Irish Sea between the UK and Ireland, is reportedly the only country in the world without a national speed limit.


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