How to Avoid Costly Summer Road Trip Traffic Tickets - TheStreet

NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Americans seem to be chomping at the bit to get away this summer, and especially for the upcoming July 4th vacation week, as the big holiday falls on a Wednesday this year.

According to a June 21 study from TomTom, the Concord, Mass.-based in-car navigation products maker, 61% of Americans are planning to get away this summer, up from 56% in 2011.

What’s more, their preferred mode of travel is their own cars, vans and trucks. Approximately 82% of consumers surveyed by TomTom say they will travel within the U.S., with the fabled American road trip still very much alive and well. Approximately 70% of respondents say they will travel by car.

One caveat this summer travel season: Americans have one hand on the wheel and one hand on their wallets.

“67% of Americans believe that it is important to go on a summer vacation, but budget travel is also still a top priority for people -- 59 percent of people spend less than $1,200 in total on their vacations,” TomTom says.

In fact, the last thing a consumer wants to do while out on the open road is to have to dig into the old travel budget and use it to pay for driving infractions. Traffic tickets can be a real pocketbook-drainer, especially if you’re driving out-of-state and have to pay more than you would for a speeding ticket than you would back at home.

How can you keep that from happening?

The Des Moines, Iowa-based legal services group ARAG has some tips for unwary and out-of-state drivers for the summer.

Know the rules of the road, maintain your paperwork, and practice some old-fashioned common courtesy if you engage a law enforcement officer on the open road.

Here are three key tips that ARAG says will keep you free and clear of the law -- or at least minimize any penalties when traveling out of state:

Planning ahead and knowing state rules

You’ve got to know the “rules of the road” in the states to which you’ll be traveling, ARAG says. “Each state has its own rules and penalties for driving issues, especially when it comes to texting or using a cell phone. Avoid surprises by checking out state specific laws regarding distracted driving.”

The firm recommends checking out this site for help.

Keeping your paperwork up to date

Road warriors should not hit the highway without making sure their license and insurance are current. “If you get into a fender bender, the last thing you want to find out is you aren’t traveling with proof of insurance – or that it expired right before you left," ARAG says. “Make sure your insurance, registration, license plates and inspection stickers are current before you go.”

The long arm of the law

If you are pulled over for an alleged traffic violation, think charm school and practice the patience and demeanor of a saint. ARAG advises remaining calm, listening to what the officer asks, not giving more than a direct response and being cooperative. “The officer may be willing to let you go with a warning if you’re polite and your record is clean,” ARAG adds. “If you’re difficult, the officer could add additional charges. In some cases, the officer will indicate on the citation whether you were polite or rude.”

Most violations can be contested (or paid for via) mail, with clear exceptions like driving while under the influence or driving with a revoked license, with those requiring an on-site court appearance.