Break It Down: Photo Speed Radar

This is a monthly series that explains complex, controversial, or commonly misunderstood topics.

March 6 2014, 10:45 AM

If you live in Denver, you may have had a run-in with the city’s photo radar traps. Maybe you were absent-mindedly driving down the road, at what felt like the speed of traffic, only to be brought back to the moment by an ominous flash. Or maybe you let your spouse or friend borrow your car. Regardless, you opened your mail a week later to find a ticket—and whoever was behind the wheel looks pretty foolish in the grainy photo. 

Even though photo speed radar has been around since 1998, the question "to pay or not to pay?" has continued to circulate. The resounding answer? Pay. Here’s why. 

Break It Down

You’ve opened your mail and there’s no unseeing the fuzzy gray snapshot of your car cruising eight miles per hour over the speed limit near your neighborhood elementary school. (The ticket is doubled, from $60 to $120, because you were in a school or work zone.) The good news: These types of violations are zero points infractions, according to the Denver Police Department (DPD), and are not reported to the Motor Vehicle Division. The bad news: You have exactly 30 days to pay—or show up to the court date printed on the ticket—before your tickets is sent to collections.

A common myth is that if you aren't served in-person, the ticket just sort of goes away. Thanks to Personal Service by Certified Mail (PSCM), which started in September 2013, this gray area no longer exists. Tickets delivered through USPS certified mail might as well be a knock on your door: You’ve been served. Unsurprisingly, payment of photo speed tickets has gone from an average of 55 percent to 85 percent since PSCM was implemented.

Good to know:

  • If you saw the flash and don’t receive anything in the mail for 90 days, you got lucky. The DPD has a 90-day clause on photo speed tickets.
  • It doesn’t matter where you live. Make sure your out-of-towners pay the fine to avoid a bigger one down the road.
  • There are only five vans—working two shifts, seven days a week—that operate as photo speed traps in the city of Denver. That means that if you’re not a speed demon, it shouldn't be too difficult to avoid these money-eating traps.
  • Read the law here.

—Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow digital assistant editor Jerilyn Forsythe on Twitter at @jlforsyt.