As an attorney, I get asked all the time about what will and will not get you ticketed when driving. Are you safe driving 10 MPH over the speed limit? What about age? Who is most likely to get ticketed, the young or the old? My answers can only be anecdotal, based on the various people I have represented who got traffic citations. However, from over 220,000 traffic tickets issued over the last three years and found some interesting trends. Keep in mind that these figures are from Minnesota but I suspect that much of this will hold across the other 49 states.
First off, of the 224,915 speeding tickets issued during the time in question, only 37 were for doing less than 5 over. So if you sometimes creep up to a few miles an hour over–1 – 4 MPH–the odds of you being ticketed for speeding are astronomically slim. Even pushing that to 10 MPH over the speed limit leaves you in pretty safe territory.
Only three percent of tickets issued of the 200,000+ tickets were given for doing 10 MPH over the limit or less. Troopers said that it is so easy to find speeders doing much more than 10 MPH over that it seems silly to waste time on the lesser speeders. Not to condone speeding, mind you. But it seems that–mathematically–keeping to 10 over or less, you are probably going to stay off the radar of the police for the most part.
However, the most common ticket written in the study sample was for 12 MPH over the limit. Notice that this is not much above the safe zone mentioned above. In fact, about a quarter of all speeding tickets in the study were given for 12 MPH over. So there is a huge difference between 10 over and 12 over. And the median ticket is for 16 MPH over. That is, there are just as many speeding tickets for doing more than 16 as there are for doing less than 16 over.
The study’s authors also examined the time of day for issuance of tickets and discovered that they were uncommon during rush hours. In fact, they were more likely to be written in the hours immediately following the morning rush or during the 1 – 3 p.m. break in the middle. Officers who addressed this said that during rush hours it is harder to single out speeders and there are often safety issues with issuing tickets during those times. Ever see a huge jam caused by a police stop along your drive in to work? No one wants that.
Interestingly, tickets were more common on Friday through Sunday. Fewer tickets were written Monday through Thursday. Some of that was likely caused by drivers being more obvious on the lighter traffic days of the weekend. But Friday?
Age is a huge factor in who gets ticketed. The younger people are way more likely to get ticketed for speeding and the officers who spoke to this said that it is a clear fact: Young drivers tend to drive faster than older drivers. Those in the 16 – 25 year-old demographic got one third of all speeding tickets in the study. While drivers 40 and over got another third, the two groups are very different in size. The younger group makes up less than 15 percent of the state’s population while the older group is just about half the state. Clearly, the younger group is being ticketed at a much higher rate and law enforcement says that it is deserved. When graphed by age, there is a huge decline in tickets after the age of 19. And this holds true for both male and female drivers.
Which brings us to the last interesting tidbit in the study. Men are ticketed at a greater rate than women and it holds true across all age groups. The difference is substantial: where among younger drivers men are at a rate of one-and-a-half times the rate of women, it explodes later. Past 55 years of age, men get two tickets for each one given to a woman.
The authors of the report spoke to several police officers who reiterated that they have discretion to handle speeding traffic stops as they see fit. And how you–the driver–handle the stop plays a lot into whether they throw the book at you or give you a reduced charge or even just a warning. But for the time being you should know that you can probably get away with a few MPH over the limit. But just don’t do more than 10 MPH over the limit at the wrong time of day or on the weekend. Doing that will make you much more likely to get ticketed.
Steve Lehto is a writer and from Michigan. He specializes in Lemon Law and frequently writes about cars and the law. His most recent books include Preston Tucker and His Battle to Build the Car of Tomorrow, and Dodge Daytona and Plymouth Superbird: Design, Development, Production and Competition. He also has a where he talks about these things.