Under VTL 1180, drivers can receive a speeding ticket even if they are going at or below the speed limit. A ticket for imprudent speed (formally known as “speed not reasonable and prudent”) alleges that the weather or other roadway conditions made the driver’s speed unsafe, regardless of the posted limit.
What Are the Penalties for a NY Imprudent Speed Ticket?
- Fines: A first offense for imprudent speed costs between $45 and $150. A second offense in 18 months can cost between $45 and $300. A third offense within 18 months for imprudent speed can cost between $45 and $525.
- Points: A conviction for imprudent speed carries 3 points. Unlike more common kinds of speeding tickets, the number of points do not increase with the driver’s speed, since this violation is not tied to the post speed limit.
- Surcharges: In addition to the fine, a driver convicted of VTL 1180(a) must also pay a mandatory state surcharge. This costs either $88 or $93 depending on where the ticket was issued.
- Driver Responsibility Assessment (DRA) fees: A conviction for imprudent speed can put the total number of points on a person’s license at 6 or higher, which obligates them to pay a Driver Responsibility Assessment (DRA) fee. This fee is in addition to the fine and surcharge associated with the offense and is paid directly to the DMV. It costs $300 for the first 6 points and $75 for each point thereafter.
- Auto insurance increases: Imprudent speed is considered a moving violation and thus can affect one’s auto insurance rates. There is no data specific to violations of VTL 1180(a), but any moving violation (especially a speeding ticket) can raise rates by as little as 5% to as much as 20% depending on one’s driving history and other factors.
What is Imprudent Speed in New York?
VTL 1180(a) states, “No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.”
When a person is charged with VTL 1180(a), the officer is alleging that the driver was not taking into account certain factors that would have caused a reasonable person to slow down.
The statute does not define what such factors or hazards might be and officers can use their discretion in issuing such tickets. Some of the reasons an officer might write a ticket for imprudent speed include:
- Reduced visibility (e.g. rain or fog)
- Poor road conditions (e.g. wet or icy roads)
- Physical hazards (e.g. debris, potholes, downed branches/structures)
- Presence of pedestrians, cyclists, or workers
How to Fight a Ticket for VTL 1180(a) Speed Not Reasonable and Prudent
There are two main ways to avoid the consequences of an imprudent speed ticket in New York. The first is to “plea the ticket down,” meaning negotiate/bargain with prosecutors to plead guilty to a less serious charge. The ideal scenario is to get the ticket reduced to a non-moving violation. This can often reduce the fine and eliminate the points, as well as avoid any possible auto insurance impact. In some cases—such as when a driver has a more checkered driving history—a person may have to accept a ticket reduced to a 2-point, non-speeding ticket such as disobeying a traffic device. This can still be a win not only for auto insurance purposes but also because three speeding ticket convictions in 18-months results in a suspended license.
In some cases, especially in NYC when plea bargaining is not an option or where the prosecutor is unwilling to make a plea bargain offer, it may make sense to fight the underlying charges of the ticket. For a charge of imprudent speed, the driver must demonstrate that the “hazards” or “conditions” either were not present or that the speed was reasonable. One way to do this is to have the officer to describe the scene and to poke holes in the logic that any such hazards or conditions were present or that it would have made sense to anticipate such hazards.
If either of these strategies sounds difficult, it’s because it can be for the average driver. However, with the help of a skilled traffic ticket attorney, these can be successfully executed. In addition to increasing the odds of winning, hiring an attorney can help avoid a trip to the courthouse; most cases permit a lawyer to plea bargain or defend against the charges on behalf of the client.
Common Questions About VTL 1180(a) Speed Not Reasonable and Prudent
- Does an imprudent speed ticket count against the total number of speeding tickets for a suspended license?
Yes. VTL 1180(a) is included when counting the total number of speeding tickets one has been convicted of within an 18-month period. As such, if this or a future speeding ticket constitutes the third conviction, a driver can and likely will have his/her license suspended.
- Is imprudent speed the lowest-point speeding ticket possible?
Sometimes officers may issue a ticket for VTL 1180(a) instead of a higher-point speeding ticket (e.g. 15 mph over the limit; 4 points) and state that they are cutting the driver a break. This is somewhat true, but imprudent speed is still a speeding ticket and thus it can 1.) impact one’s auto insurance rates and 2.) count toward to total number of speeding tickets needed for a suspended license.
- Can I go to jail for an imprudent speed ticket?
Theoretically, yes. However, this is very unlikely. Most traffic tickets have some kind of jail time associated with them—in the case of VTL 1180(a) it is 15 days for a first offense. Judges reserve jail sentences for the worst drivers, in particular chronic offenders and/or those who show little remorse for the risks that they take. In the vast majority of cases, driving at a speed that is not reasonable or prudent is not going to result in jail time.
Data on New York Imprudent Speed Ticket
In 2017, drivers in New York received 22,671 tickets for VTL 1180(a) Speed not reasonable and prudent. This is a slight increase (6%) over the number of such tickets written in 2016. Overall, imprudent speed tickets made up just 3.3% of all speeding tickets issued in New York State in 2017. While this may seem small, it is worth noting that the proportion of imprudent speed tickets has been rising since 2009, the earliest year of data available from the DMV.