People who get tickets for speeding are often guilty of more than simply driving faster than the posted limit. Their chief offense? Getting noticed in the first place. That's the first domino to fall in the ugly chain of events that leads to a piece of "payin' paper."

Here are some common sense ways to run under the radar - literally:

* Drive within 5-10 mph of surrounding traffic. If it's moving 70-ish, you're usually ok up to about 75-80 (even if the posted max is 65). Most of the time, cops are looking for the driver going noticeably faster than the other cars on the road. And when you're in a pack of cars all doing 5-10 mph over the limit, you've automatically improved your odds of not being the one that gets pulled over, even though you're all technically "speeding." The cop has to pick one car. Probably, it won't be you.

* Try to stay in the middle of the pack. If you're the lead car, logic says you'll be the first car to run past any radar trap up ahead. And if you're the last car, you'll be the one the cop rolls up behind. That means the safest place is in the middle - just like a gazelle fleeing a hungry lion by seeking safety in the middle of the herd.

* Find a "rabbit." If you can't find a pack of cars going the speed you'd like to maintain, the next best thing is to find yourself a rabbit - a solitary driver running the speed you'd like to drive that you can follow (discretely, about 50-100 yards back). If there's a cop running radar, the rabbit will trip the trap- not you. And if he brakes suddenly, you have just received your early warning in time to take defensive action.

* Do not change lanes frequently, tailgate or otherwise drive aggressively. In addition to being rude and dangerous, you're just asking for a trucker or someone with a cell phone to call the cops and give them a description of your vehicle and license plate number. Always use your signals and be courteous to fellow drivers. It's safer - and it will help you fade into background.

* Avoid the fast lane. Use the far left lane to pass when necessary, but try to stay in the middle lanes when possible. Reason? If a cop is lurking in a cut-out along the median strip (or coming at you from the opposite direction on a divided highway) the speeder in the far left lane is the one most likely to become the target. Drivers who get nailed are often the type who rack it up to 10 or 15 over the limit and "park it" in the far left lane.

* Watch for cut-outs and modulate your speed accordingly. On many highways, there are cut-outs in the median strip every couple of miles; usually, you can see these in plenty of time to slow down a little bit - so you're just doing slightly over the limit in case there's a cop lurking behind the bushes. Then you can ease back to where you were.

* Don't speed when you are the only car on the road. If you ignore this warning, it's the equivalent of plastering a "ticket me!" bumper sticker on your vehicle. Even if you're only doing 5 mph over the posted limit, if there's a cop running radar, he's got nothing to look at but you. Lonesome speeding is even more dangerous in small towns - where radar traps and aggressive enforcement can be common. And never speed late at night. Drunk-driving patrols are heavy - and cops are more inclined to pull you over for any offense, in order to check you for signs of alcohol. Don't give them a reason.

* If it's ok legally, get a radar detector. Yes, they're expensive (good ones, anyhow). But a one-time hit of, say, $300 for a decent radar detector is cheaper than even a single big seeding ticket - plus the higher insurance costs that will come with it. Radar detectors are legal in most states and well worth the investment.

And finally:

* If possible, drive a nondescript vehicle. It may not be fair, but it's human nature to notice things that stand out from the crowd. And a bright-colored car, or one with a loud exhaust, big wings, etc. is the car more likely to draw a cop's initial attention than an ordinary-looking family-type car. Especially if it's a flashy car in a group of ho-hum cars. Remember, the cop has to single one car out. Which car do you suppose is the likely candidate? The bright yellow Mustang GT with 20-inch chrome rims? Or the silver Taurus? Also, if you do get pulled in a fancy, high-profile car, your odds of getting a ticket vs. a warning have probably gone up. It's not something any cop would readily admit, but human nature is what it is. If you're driving a fast-looking hot rod, the cop is going to assume you use it - and "deserve" a ticket more than the guy in a family-looking ride who's plea that he "didn't realize he was speeding, officer" comes off as more believable.

* Be aware that appearances count. That is, your appearance. Fair or not, cops tend to "profile" people based on how they look. If your appearance says "responsible member of the community" you're apt to get a more friendly response than you might if you look like you just left the homeless shelter - or drug rehab.

The worst possible thing you can do is combine all the no-no's listed above by driving a flashy car too fast, late at night when you're the only car on the road while looking like a cranked-up Mel Gibson.

If you do that, expect a ticket. And expect no mercy.