Traffic violations are generally divided into major and minor types of violations. The most minor type are parking violations, which are not counted against a driving record, though a person can be arrested for unpaid violations. Next are the minor driving violations, including speeding and other moving violations, which usually do not require a court appearance. Then there are more serious moving violations, such as reckless driving or leaving the scene of an accident. Finally there is drunk driving, also called Driving Under the Influence (DUI), which is a classification onto itself.
All but the most serious traffic violations are generally prosecuted as misdemeanor charges; however, repeat offenses can be prosecuted at the level of felonies. As misdemeanor charges, most traffic violations require payment of a fine but no jail time. State laws do not allow a judge to impose a jail sentence for speeding or failure to stop at a signal. However, more serious traffic violations, such as drunk or reckless driving, can result in jail time at the judge’s discretion.
The most common type of traffic violation is a speed limit violation. Speed limits are defined by state. In 1973, Congress implemented a 55-miles-perhour speed limit in order to save on energy costs, but these were abolished in 1995. Since then, most states have implemented 65-mph maximum speed limits. There are two types of speed limits: fixed maximum, which make it unlawful to exceed the speed limit anywhere at any time, and prima facie, which allow drivers to prove in certain cases that exceeding the speed limit was not unsafe and, therefore, was lawful.
Another common type of traffic violation is a seat belt violation. Most states now require adults to wear seatbelts when they drive or sit in the front seat, and all states require children to be restrained using seat belts. New York was the first state to make seat belts mandatory, in 1984.