Fear of speeding tickets looms over teens

Fear of speeding tickets looms over teens

Photo: Christian Davell

If you’re a driver, you hope the lights atop a Kettering Police car never appear in your rear-view mirror.

By Christian Davell, Staff Writer

New drivers have a lot to deal with: parallel parking, turning without hitting the curb, merging onto highways and stalling a stick-shift car. On top of all that, most teens’ biggest fear is getting a speeding ticket.

All teen drivers worry about getting pulled over for speeding. Sophomore Sarah Dalton, a fairly new driver, agrees it’s one of her concerns. “It’s scary thinking about getting your license taken away or a humungous fine,” she said.

Now teens may have an additional reason to worry about getting caught speeding. It used to be that police officers checked your speed using laser, radar or pacing, which essentially is driving at the same speed as the suspected speeder. Now, however, officers can estimate a driver’s speed and legally issue a ticket. That’s because of an Ohio Supreme Court ruling last June 2.

The ruling goes back to the court case, City of Barberton v. Jenney, on July 3, 2008. Police Officer Christopher Santimarino saw Mark Jenney speeding 70 mph by his guess in a 60 mph zone. Then he used a Python brand Doppler radar to make sure Jenney was speeding. It indicated he was going 82 mph. So, Santimarino wrote a ticket and put down that Jenney was traveling 79 mph. Jenney thought this estimation was illegal and made his ticket invalid, and he took the case to court.

When the case reached the Ohio Supreme Court, it sided with the officer, ruling that “a police officer’s unaided visual estimation of a vehicle’s speed is sufficient to support a speeding conviction without independent verification of the vehicle’s speed,” as long as the officer is trained and experienced in such estimations.

The training an officer goes through is difficult, which makes giving a ticket no easy matter. Kettering Patrolman Andrew DiSalvo noted the court limited the power of estimation to situations where the violation is obvious.

“Nobody likes giving tickets for fun,” DiSalvo said. “But it feels good informing people of the law.” He added that the overall goal is to make the streets and highways safer.      

An informal survey of 133 Fairmont student drivers revealed 17 percent have received speeding tickets. Junior Sarah Bennett hopes she’s never one of them. Her solution? “I drive like a grandma,” she said.

If you do get a speeding ticket and you’re under 18, then you’ll have to go to court. Is it constitutional, though, to force a person to go to court because of age? Fairmont Government teacher Scott Byer says he thinks it’s OK. “I think it’s very constitutional and a good idea, to promote the general welfare,” he said. “It’s for our own good and makes you a better driver.”