Tracking Speed Traps
You’re driving home from work one evening and suddenly you see it: a police car hiding behind an overgrown tree. Panicked, you look down at your speedometer and realize you were driving well over the speed limit. Will you get away scot-free or be chased down by flashing lights?
If the latter occurs, you’re not alone. In the U.S., around 41 million people receive speeding tickets each year, which translates into around 112,000 per day. To find out more about speed trap trends across the nation, we analyzed 15 years’ worth of data from The National Speed Trap Exchange – a site run by the National Motorist Association that allows users to post information about speed traps and allows other users to vote on the credibility of the reports.
Do some states and cities have more speed traps than others? Where do motorists most frequently report seeing police cars hide? We also created an interactive feature so you can discover the most common cities for speed traps in your state. Read on to get the details.
Interactive: Cities Near You With the Most Speed Traps
Select your state from the drop-down menu to see which cities in your area are prone to numerous speed traps.
States With the Most and Fewest Speed Traps
A glance at the map reveals that some states rely on speed traps more than others. Several states in the Midwest and West fall on the low end, numerous states scattered across the country have slightly more, and one state accelerates to the top of the list: Vermont. With 52 speed traps per 100,000 residents, the Green Mountain State has over five times more than last-place Alaska.
In an effort to reduce speed-related fatalities, Vermont has been involved in state-specific and regional crackdown initiatives. One stretch of I-89 in Vermont is particularly notorious for speed traps: An officer parked under a canopy of trees has stopped numerous drivers for excessive speeding, defined as traveling 95 mph or more. New Hampshire, Michigan, Delaware, and Oklahoma all make the top 10 list for speed trap prevalence.
On the other hand, Alaska averages fewer than 10 speed traps per 100,000 people. A recent study revealed that the police force in Anchorage – the state’s biggest city – is understaffed. Speed traps in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana are also scarcer than average. Strikingly, these three states also rank in the top 10 in the nation for rate of car crash fatalities. Nationwide, speed ranks as a factor in just over a quarter of traffic deaths.
Worst Cities for Speed Traps
Even if your state isn’t crawling with speed traps, you may live near a city that’s notorious for them. Cities located in Florida, Michigan, Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Ohio all made the top 10. Sarasota, FL, had the most speed traps of all, with an average of 140 traps per 100,000 residents. Dearborn Heights, MI, took second place, and Coppell, TX, came in third. Even the No. 20 city St. Clair Shores, MI, had a surprising 78 speed traps per 100,000 residents. If you plan to visit to any of these cities, keep an eye on your speedometer – or better yet, set your cruise control.
Common Police Hiding Spots Reported by Motorists
When you think about speed traps, what do you envision? We analyzed keywords within speed trap data reported by motorists to determine the likelihood of speed trap locations. The most common phrase? “Side of the road” had 133 more mentions than the next-most-common term. Based on this analysis, other common locations for speed traps include at the bottom of a hill, at the top of a hill, in a parking lot, in a median, and on the side of the street.
Most Common Words and Terms Related to Speed Traps
We also analyzed phrases that motorists used when reporting speed trap information and created a word cloud to demonstrate their frequency. The larger the word is, the more prominently it was used. As you can see, drivers chat about location of speed traps (“parking lot”), reasons behind certain locations (“limit drops”), and even specific types of law enforcement (from “motorcycle cops” to “county sheriff”).
Top Intersections and Roads for Speed Traps
Speed traps aren’t located everywhere within a city – instead, they are strategically located in certain spots. We analyzed user-reported data (focusing on information deemed credible by other users) to uncover the spots where motorists have reported seeing speed traps the most. The chart above reveals the top spots in the U.S where you may be likely to encounter a speed trap.
You may live in an area where speed traps are common – or perhaps these stakeouts are not even on your radar. Either way, odds are you will drive by one at some point. As our report reveals, many states and cities across the nation are home to either drastically more or fewer than average.
There’s no doubt speed traps are controversial – although law enforcement maintain that the goal of speed traps is to increase safety, opponents assert that they are simply one more way for states and municipalities to generate funds. Some motorists even believe that police officers must meet ticket quotas or that they keep a cut of speeding tickets they issue (both are false). Websites and apps have sprung up to alert drivers to watch for them.
The truth? According to the National Highway Transportation Administration, 3 in 10 drivers are speeders. And in 2014, over half of speeding-related fatalities occurred on roads with speed limits under 55 mph. Your best bet to thwart speed traps is common sense: Don’t speed. Motorists’ top reasons for putting the pedal to the metal are that they’re late, they have an emergency or illness, or they weren’t paying attention. However, one fact rings true: No reason is important enough to risk your life or the lives of others on the road.
We analyzed 15 years of driver-reported National Speed Trap Exchange data and determined viable speed traps by including only those speed traps that had more “yes” votes than “no” in order to ensure that we were not including any speed traps that were deemed “not a speed trap” by the NSTE community. For the “Most Driver-Confirmed Speed Traps Per State,” we pulled the speed trap locations with the most “yes” votes from our data that we were able to effectively geotag that had at least 25 “yes” votes and fewer than five “no” votes.
Feel free to reuse any of the assets found in this project. When doing so, we ask that you please link back to Cheap Car Insurance and this page to give your readers a chance to explore our full report and the data behind it.