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Get Out of a Ticket With Your Smartphone

By Aaron Crowe

fixedSpeeding can be expensive, as anyone who has been caught by a police officer’s radar gun already knows.

An infraction on a driving record comes with a fine and can lead to an increase in the driver’s auto insurance premium.

In California, driving 5 mph over a 25 mph speed limit can result in a $238 fine, along with one penalty point on a driving record that can cause insurance to go up $538, according to Fixed.com, an app that helps people fight tickets. That’s 776 for one speeding ticket.

Fixed.com and other websites and apps can help drivers get out of speeding, traffic and parking tickets. You start by using something you likely have with you all of the time: a smartphone.

How to dismiss parking tickets

If you get a parking ticket in San Francisco — one of four cities Fixed.com works in — you upload a photo of your car where the ticket was issued and parking ticket experts at Fixed will tell you the chances of dismissal. If they fight the ticket for you and win, you pay them a fee of 35 percent of the fine. You only pay the fee if Fixed wins your case.

Fixed is available in New York City and the California cities of San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles. On average it beats 20-30 percent of the tickets it contests, according to its founder, David Hegarty.

Hegarty came up with the idea after paying four parking tickets in San Francisco one morning, then coming out to his car to find two more on his car. He figured out how to contest them collected his evidence and submitted his appeal and won both appeals.

The app prompts for evidence, depending on the violation code. For example, a “red curb” violation may prompt the user to take a photo of the faded curb paint, and Fixed would get curb maintenance records from the city. For a “wheels not curbed” ticket, Fixed would query its database of street guides across San Francisco because a grade of 3 percent or more is required for curbing a vehicle.

Errors by the ticketing agency are the most common, according to Fixed. Street signs warning of street cleanings must be less than 100 feet from the car. There are lots of rules and lots of fine print, and parking officers can make mistakes under stressful working conditions. Fixed can also help with tickets for speeding, red light cameras and stop signs.

Look ahead for police

Radar detectors have been around for years to help drivers avoid police using radar to catch speeders, but smartphones can help by using crowdsourcing where other drivers let you know what’s coming up down the road.

The Escort Live radar detector app works with a radar detector and connects users to the cloud where a phone and radar detector provide real-time police spotted alerts, speed trap alerts and alerts from other radar detectors in your area.

Without a radar detector added to the service, users won’t spot radar being used in the area. They’ll see “police spotted” speed trap alerts. A premium service for $5 a month or $50 a year adds features such as real-time alerts from other users and warning icons.

WazeThe free app Waze also uses its community to post alerts about where police are in real-time, though it’s mostly used to get driving directions and avoid traffic jams, auto accidents and road hazards before users get to them on the road.

“Waze has been awesome,” says Nick Santora, chief executive officer of GetCurricula.com. “We use it all the time on our trips from Atlanta to Florida.

“The community has grown so much and the community is the one actually messaging and putting alerts up,” Santora says. “We know about cops or anything else way before it even hits.”

Proof of insurance

Not having proof of insurance when you’re pulled over by police can also lead to a fine. A simple way to avoid it is to have electronic proof on your phone from your insurance carrier in states that allow it as proof to a police officer.

If you don’t forget your phone, 37 states accept electronic proof of insurance, which insurers offer in different ways. Some display your insurance card in their app, and some have digital ID cards that can be downloaded to a phone.

Geico, for example, offers digital ID cards through its mobile app that can be viewed, emailed or printed from a phone. They can also be accessed through a tablet or laptop, if you have one in your car with wireless connections.

Ways to get out of tickets aren’t just limited to your smartphone. As The Fixed blog notes in a post where cops give tips on how to prevent getting a ticket, the non-technical methods can be a good first defense.

After being pulled over by an officer, the methods include keeping your hands on the steering wheel throughout the entire encounter, knowing where your registration and proof of insurance is, asking permission to remove your wallet and retrieve your driver’s license and registration, and not admitting to speeding.

It also helps, the police say, to not have an attitude. If only there was a smartphone app to detect that.