The court generally schedules one day a month as "speed day" to hear from people contesting their speeding tickets, hoping to get charges eliminated or reduced. Of the 300 to 350 tickets issued each month by the Lower Merion speed team, about 90 are contested.
There are no statistics on the percentage of contests that are successful. However, in 10 hearings in about a half-hour, every ticket was reduced, most to 5 m.p.h. above the speed limit. At that rate, a speeder pays a $104 fee but gets no points on his or her license.
Excuses did not vary much. Two people said their speedometers had been out of order, others said they simply had not been going at the speed the police quoted. One woman, stopped in a 1978 Volare, said her car was just too old to move that fast.
District Justice Caroline C. Stine said the Ardmore Court had one of the highest volumes of speeding tickets in the state, so she must rule quickly. ''There are courts where they see only a few a month," she said.
Including parking tickets, she said, close to 25,000 traffic violations are filed with the Ardmore District Court every year. Of those, about 6,000 require hearings.
Stine said she would like a second speed day added, to make the process more convenient. It is important that people have the chance to challenge their tickets, she said. "The fees are pretty hefty."
By 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, the court's small lobby was crowded and stuffy. A sense of camaraderie filled the small room as people commiserated over the inconvenience and the annoying vigilance of traffic cops.
When an attorney sitting with a client said that 99 percent of the speeding tickets he contested were reduced, a man standing nearby quipped, "Can I have your card?"
Stephanie Zeck of Philadelphia said she did not know if she was actually speeding. "I could have been. I should have had my radar detector up."
Inside the courtroom, cases moved quickly.
Louis Blankfield, accused of going 47 m.p.h. in a 35-m.p.h. zone, told the judge, "I can't believe I was going that fast. There were five or six cars pulled over at the same time. I don't believe I was going faster than 37 or 38 miles an hour."
The judge reduced his charge to 40 m.p.h.
Blankfield said later that he had been stopped at the same speed trap on River Road at least a half-dozen times, and that he had contested every ticket.
"I think it's unfair. They are just waiting for people going a few miles above the speed limit.
"I hate to give them the $99," he said, "but the points are what scare you. If you get too many, your license could be taken away."
The state takes away a driver's license after six points are accumulated.
Blankfield said every ticket had been reduced to just a fine with no points.
"They won't let you get away without paying the fine," he said. "Lower Merion needs its money."
But, in fact, of the $104 fee for going 5 m.p.h. over the limit, only $17.50 goes to the township. The remainder goes to the county and the state.
As Blankfield stood to leave the courtroom, he walked up to a police officer, shook his hand, and smiling asked him, "Don't you guys have anything better to do?"