Best & Worst States for Traffic Tickets
Last spring, cops clocked a car on a rural road outside Charlotte, N.C., doing 128 mph in a 45 mph zone. The offender was NASCAR racer Kyle Busch, who apparently forgot he wasn't at work. But Busch is hardly alone: Only seven states in the U.S. hand out more traffic tickets than North Carolina.
If justice truly were blind, then enforcement of traffic laws would be pretty much uniform across America. But according to the National Motorists Association, your odds of getting traffic tickets in some states are substantially higher than in others. (Of course, we don't advocate speeding, but forewarned is forearmed.)
Admittedly, states and municipalities don't publicize statistics on how many tickets their cops are handing out. So the National Motorists Association turned to Google's Search Insights to get a handle on the state-by-state odds of seeing flashing lights in your rearview mirror. Their rankings were based on an analysis of ticket-related search queries such as "speeding ticket" and "traffic tickets" over time, which can indicate state-by-state trends across the country.
And getting caught can cost you: Some states have increased the fines for speeding in the past few years, and many jurisdictions have devoted more police effort to enforcement and ticketing. Why? Because states and cities are desperate for extra income thanks to recession-shrunken tax revenues and curtailed federal programs. As of last Jan. 1 in Illinois, for instance, driving 30 to 39 miles over the speed limit is now a Class B misdemeanor that carries a maximum fine of $1,500 and a possible six-month jail sentence.
You might not even know you've been nabbed, since an increasing number of jurisdictions are turning to speed cameras that measure the velocity of passing vehicles and snap photos of offenders' license plates for ticketing by mail. In the first 17 months after it started using speed cameras, Bluff City, Tenn., reportedly issued almost 40,000 tickets, which brought in $1.6 million in fines—many times more than its property tax revenues.
And don't think you're immune if you're driving a rental car. The rental company will pass along the violation to you, and if you're not inclined to pay the fine, remember—they have your credit card number.
If you just can't help your lead foot, check out the National Motorists Association. The group says it supports "higher speed limits, an end to speed traps, fairer traffic courts and stopping the use of traffic tickets to generate revenue." It also wants to see more technology used in support of traffic laws, such as red-light ticket cameras and photo speed enforcement. And it sells—for $9.95—a downloadable 250-page guide to fighting traffic tickets.
In the meantime, see where you're most and least likely to end up like Kyle Busch—on the wrong end of a speeding ticket.