NJ traffic cops tell all: How fast do you have to go before you get pulled over?
In New Jersey the speed limit on most major highways is 65 mph, but many drivers routinely travel 75 or even 80 and never get a ticket because everyone around them is going just as fast, or even faster.
Local, county and state police officials who spoke to New Jersey 101.5 on the condition of anonymity said that while they had never been specifically instructed to allow motorists to travel faster than the posted speed limit, there was an understanding among law enforcement that higher speeds were usually going to be tolerated in most situations.
Officers said their own sense of safety and fairness played a part in determining how fast they'd allow drivers could go.
They also said speeding in residential areas and near schools was treated differently than on highways — police tended to be stricter in 25 mph zones where kids and others were walking and crossing streets.
One law enforcement official said officers may be more apt to write a ticket for a driver talking on a cell phone or swerving between lanes than going faster than the posted speed.
“There are exceptions, but police departments in different parts of the Garden State will generally allow drivers to go faster than the posted speed limit. They’ll allow you at least a 10 miles an hour leeway,” said County College of Morris criminology professor Nick Irons, a former Sparta Township police sergeant.
“Sometimes it’s 15 depending on the speed, for example if it’s a 35 mph zone versus a 55 mph zone or 50 mph zone, the leeway will change.”
Irons pointed out that if you do get stopped for going too fast, the ticket that’s handed out may be for a lower speed, or the violation might be changed to a non-point type violation.”
One local police officer told New Jersey 101.5 that he will frequently give warnings to speeders he stops who live locally if they have a clean driving record.
Irons said in his experience police officials won’t give their officers specific instructions on how many miles an hour over the speed limit will be permitted. That determination is almost always made by individual officers.
“The sense of fairness comes in” he said.
However, in certain situations, all the guidelines about giving drivers a break go out the window.
“Sometimes, there’s an understanding of what’s expected,” said Irons. “It used to be in Sparta where I was working, the chief wanted a book a month. You belonged to the 'book a month club.' That’s 10 summonses a month.”
So, are there ticket quotas that police follow?
On the record, law enforcement officials always deny quotas exist, but Irons said “that’s not true."
"If they tell you there’s no quota they’re not telling you the exact truth. Quotas exist, OK, but they don’t exist in written format. It’s all verbal.”
The professor conducted an informal spot poll with his students, asking them if they had gone faster than the speed limit and by how much, and he said he was shocked at what they told him.
“Of the females, we have a range of 75 to 150 miles per hour. For the males, 75 miles per hour to 148 miles per hour,” he said. “That indicates when it comes to most New Jersey drivers, they’re simply not obeying the speed limit, that the speed limits are a joke. They see 55 they do 65.”