A speed trap is a section of highway or road along which traffic laws are heavily enforced. Usually, they are located in areas where motorists tend to speed, for example because the area is a straightaway or has a downhill incline. In some cases, law enforcement may decide to set up a speed trap in an area where there have been numerous traffic accidents. A police officer will park next to the trap and radar traffic to apprehend speeders.
Many countries have established speed limits for their roads for the safety of motorists or pedestrians. In heavily trafficked downtown areas, for example, speed limits tend to be low so that drivers do not inadvertently hit pedestrians or other motorists. Downtown areas tend to have more dangerous traffic because of sudden stopping and starting, unsignalled turns, or hazards in the road such as children and animals. In other areas such as the open highway, speed limits are set higher to reflect traffic conditions.
A speed trap is designed to catch people who are violating the speed limit, and it is often established in an area where the speed limit is consistently violated. Common locations for these traps include downhill inclines, areas where the speed limit changes, or locations such as schools and playgrounds. In many areas, locals are well aware of where a speed trap is located, which means that law enforcement tends to apprehend out of town visitors more than locals.
Some drivers object to speed traps because they seem somewhat unfair. Especially in areas where most of the traffic is exceeding the speed limit, a change in the speed limit might seem more sensible than a speed trap, unless the higher speed of traffic is resulting in a higher number of accidents. Critics have also suggested that law enforcement agencies are not as concerned with traffic safety as they are with reaching ticket quotas.
Law enforcement agencies argue that the use of a speed trap in a high traffic area helps to reduce traffic accidents and fatalities, and also reminds drivers of the prevailing traffic laws. Most speed limits are established after careful study by transportation agencies, and law enforcement officials believe that drivers who exceed a posted speed limit are putting themselves and other drivers at risk. Especially in hazardous driving conditions like ice, snow, fog, or rain, a speed trap could save lives by making drivers more conscious of their rate of speed.