Can you be ticketed for inferred speeding?

Let’s say I’m driving on a stretch of some limited access highway (one with no on or off ramps). Let’s say the speed limit is 70 mph and the stretch of road is thirty-five miles long. There are cameras at the on and off ramps.

One camera records me entering the highway at 1:15 pm. Another camera records me exiting the highway at 1:35 pm. (The clocks are synchronized.)

Now if I drove thirty-five miles at a speed of seventy miles per hour, it would take me thirty minutes. I drove this distance in twenty minutes. This means I must have been driving an average speed of 105 mph. (I could have been driving slower than 105 mph at some point but that would mean I would have had to have driven at an even higher speed at some other point.)

Based on this clear objective evidence that I was driving at least 105 mph, could I be issued a speeding ticket? Or does the legal system require that I have to be observed at the specific time when I am driving over the speed limit?

There are definitely places in the world where this is done. New South Wales in Australia, for example. I don’t know of any jurisdiction in the USA that has allowed this, but I don’t think it’s a result of our legal system as such, just a reflection of the fact that our culture tends to view speeding as a very minor violation not worthy of serious enforcement (there are states that completely prohibit all types of speed camera).

In my state, I believe to be ticketed, in general, the violation has to occur in the officer’s presence. Photo radar and red light cameras have specific provisions allowing them, and special procedures that must be followed when the tickets are issued.

So, in my state, I would guess that there would have to be a law authorizing ticketing people this way. If it were a crime rather than a violation – like if going at least 105 mph constituted a misdemeanor, then I think an officer could arrest the driver based on that evidence. And the driver could be convicted if the prosecutor could prove the accuracy of the cameras and timestamps.

But those devices record you at the time that you are breaking the law. The situation I described would be one where there is evidence that you broke the law but no recording or observation of you doing so.

Obviously our legal system provides for people being found guilty of committing a crime through inferred evidence. Most murders, for example, aren’t directly witnessed. But I don’t know if state laws specifically require direct observation for a charge of speeding.

They do perform it the way you described but over a shorter distance whenever you see those “speed enforced by aircraft” signs. There are sections of highway with lines painted on the ground spaced 1/4 mile apart and law enforcement in the air will actually time you line to line to calculate your speed. They can then radio down to patrols on the ground to pull you over.

That’s still an officer directly observing the violation.

Prove I can’t teleport, officer!

Right. I was providing context for the rest of my post. I don’t see why it could not be done if authorized by statute. And in my state, it would have to be. I don’t know if it could be done in other states with or without statutory changes.

Extrapolating from the way photo-radar detected speeding was handled here when it was still in effect, and the way red-light violations detected by cameras still work, it’s a matter of statute as already said. In both those cases the key factor that has to be specially handled is not that a police officer didn’t directly observe the violation, but that the driver was not identified. So the way it works is that the owner of the vehicle gets a monetary fine, but there are no demerits on the driver’s record – it’s strictly a monetary transaction, and if the owner wasn’t the driver, he’s expected to go after the miscreant for compensation (which car rental companies certainly do).

The automatic detection (photo-radar or red light camera or whatever) has sometimes been challenged on technical grounds (there was one news story about a red light camera that had a habit of sometimes issuing tickets for perfectly legal right turns), but I don’t believe it’s ever been challenged on constitutional grounds. With the appropriate legislation, it’s hard to see why the OP’s scenario would be any different.

Which, incidentally, raises an interesting question about toll roads that automatically log onramp and offramp times and exact distance travelled. Fortunately they’re not in the speeding-ticking-issuing business but their database must have enormous amounts of evidence for speeding violations! :smiley:

That would seem to be something of a stretch. Clearly there is both observation and recording of two locations and times. In the limit, speed cameras and red light cameras work in the same manner. Speed cameras record location changes and determine speed (this really is in the limit; the observations might only be nanoseconds apart) and red light cameras typically take two pictures to show that you crossed into the intersection on a red light, so two observations at different times and locations (of your car) to determine your actions. In all cases there is some element of an inference of movement in order to breach a law. If there is no known physical mechanism that can account for the recorded locations and times that does not involve breaking the law, it is hard to see how there is a problem. The idea that the intermediate action must be directly observed is likely a sort of made up legal maxim that doesn’t actually exist. At least for most of us.

When the Illinois Tollway implemented electronic tolling, using transponders in cars, there were rumors that they were going to issue speeding tickets based on “inferred speeding” (i.e., the amount of time it takes a particular transponder, and by extension, the car carrying it, to pass between two toll plazas, and the average speed required to do so in the elapsed time).

However, as of 2004, according to this Chicago Tribune article, they were not doing so, and had no plans to do so. I haven’t heard the rumor in years, nor have I ever heard of someone getting such a ticket, so I presume that they still are not doing so (and I have no idea if it even would be legally allowed).

Of course. This is just a logical extension of how measured mile wire-on-road speed traps used to work, and how average speed enforcement works now. In France, they can ticket you based on your times through tollbooths, for instance.

In the UK we have ‘average speed cameras’. They are always clearly identified and sometimes cover several miles, but not, afaik, 35-mile stretches. They are often found on roadwork stretches where the limit is temporarily reduced for the safety of the workers.

There may well be more cameras than the one at each end too, and some drivers who don’t understand what ‘average’ means, treat them as ordinary speed cameras and slow down when they see them.

It’s like a mathematics capability tax.

The New York Thruway used to do that a very looooog time ago. It was a take a toll ticket when you enter and give it back and pay when you exit based on your entry to exit points. If your time was too short between them you might get a ticket, I believe by an officer at the toll plaza.

The reason they did away with it was as I recall it did not reduce speeding, it just caused the driver to stop at a rest station to refuel or use the bathroom along the way, so was ineffective and dropped. I suspect privacy concerns/rights also played into this.

This was in 1980 and I was only 17 so I’m not certain on the details. I was sharing driving duties with my grandfather on a trip from California to Missouri and there was some kind of toll road between (I think) Oklahoma City and Springfield, MO. We collected a time stamped ticket on the western entrance and submitted it on the eastern exit where payment was made. My grandfather warned me that if we got to the exit too soon, we would get a speeding ticket. I thought he was bullshitting me because I had already gotten a speeding ticket outside Flagstaff the day before. Anyway, I maintained a steady 54 mph the whole way just in case. About a mile before the exit there were dozens of vehicles cooling their heels along the shoulder, apparently making sure they didn’t exit the toll road too soon.

They do this in Europe and even in the UK, where they call it SPECS. In France, the Netherlands and Swizzerland the fines can be horrendously high, in Scandinavian countries too, I have been told.
Germany was slow to adopt this method due to privacy concerns (data protection is really a thing here for historical reasons) but money talked louder. And it improves safety, as people learnt to drive slower on average and not only where the radar is known to be.

Coincidentally, I was driving on the NYS Thruway yesterday when this thought occurred to me. Traffic on the road is now monitored by cameras and computers and it occurred to me how easily it could be used to generate speeding tickets as well as collecting tolls.

I seem to remember that the PA Turnpike was doing this in the 1950s. Yes, you could game it by pulling over before you exited, but what was the point? You didn’t get there any sooner. And you burnt more gas doing it.

I’ve heard rumors about jurisdictions that use lines on the highway separated by (say) one mile, and have airborn observers measure how long a driver takes to travel between them. If true, this would be similar to the OP.

I always assumed this was what “speed limit enforced by aircraft” was referring to. Wouldn’t radar be unreliable from a plane or helicopter?