I’ve lived in Massachusetts for most of my life. I racked up a handful of minor traffic violations here over the last 25 years, but when I moved to Vermont, I seemed to be getting popped for violations once every couple of months. It was a combination of driving more during odd hours, and a lot of cops with nothing better to do. Those factors influence what state you’re likely to get a ticket in, too, and how expensive it’s likely to be.
Most Expensive First Offense: (Tie) Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire
These five states all hold drivers liable for a fine of up to $1,000 for a first offense. The fine is up to a judge’s discretion and can be based on how many miles per hour you’re ticketed over the designated speed limit, or if you were caught speeding in a work or a school zone, both of which tend to double a fine. In addition to the fine, you can spend up to a year in jail. Granted, speeding in a work zone is bad for everyone concerned, but a few moments of inattention resulting in a $1,000 fine? What’s the first offense for a weapons violation in those states?
Most Expensive State to Fight a Ticket: Massachusetts
Back in 2005, Vincent Gillespie got a $15 parking ticket in Northampton, Massachusetts, a bucolic community in the Connecticut River Valley in Central Massachusetts. In order to fight the ticket, Gillespie had to pay $319.90 in filing fees with the Hampshire County Superior Court, which was non-refundable whether he won his case or not. His case went to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial court, where Gillespie’s lawyers argued that the fees effectively negated his constitutional right to due process. In its ruling, the SJC noted that the plaintiffs hadn’t met the burden of proof that the laws weren’t in keeping with the state constitution, and that the fee system serves the purpose of discouraging “the filing of nonmeritorious appeals,” thus conserving scarce judicial resources.
Sneakiest Speed Traps in America: Vermont
Mt. Tabor is a one-horse dot on Route 7a in western Vermont that doesn’t even have a traffic light. What it does have is a speed limit sign that drops to 40 mph, and you will get rung up by its zealous constable, a guy who drives a Camaro and gets paid by the number of tickets he writes. And he’s not alone. One constable in the village of Island Pond made national news by writing 1,100 tickets, with fines totaling $100,000 – a tenth of the entire revenue of the town that year.
Most Unmarked State Police Cars: Connecticut
In all my years driving in New England, I’ve never seen a fully marked Connecticut State Police car. That’s because only one is assigned to every troop. Apparently, they’re white with yellow and blue markings. Most Connecticut State Police cars are silver, with a pushbar up front and a low-profile lightbar on the roof, which carries the only “State Police” marking on the car. Connecticut’s also been notorious for using Camaros, Mustangs, Grand Nationals and other non-traditional cars as unmarked patrol cars on the state’s highways.
Most Tickets Written: Washington, DC
Ohio residents will be surprised that it’s Washington, DC (yeah, not technically a “state,” but whatever) that writes the most speeding tickets. With just over half a million residents, DC’s Finest writes more than 430,000 tickets a year. It beats out the next state in the top ten – Wyoming – by a factor of ten. Save your money. Visit some other place.
Photo Credit: Flickr / James Duff