When miles of open roads beckon, it's easy to put the pedal to the metal and ignore speed limits. Pull that move in Nevada, and you very well could be pulled over and ticketed. Fines aren’t even the end of it – speeding tickets rack up points on your driver's license and translate to higher car insurance premiums.
According to the National Motorists Association, a motorists' rights group, you're more likely to be slapped with a traffic ticket in Nevada than in any other state. Perhaps the folks in the Silver State are taking too many gambles on the road?
Using public tools that show Internet search trends across the country along with ticket-related searches, the motorists association ranks these states as giving out the greatest number of traffic tickets in 2012:
1. Nevada. 2. Georgia. 3. Alabama. 4. Florida. 5. Maryland. 6. Louisiana. 7. Texas. 8. District of Columbia. 9. California, North Carolina, Missouri*. 10. New York.
*Tied for ninth.
Making the list
Exactly why one state issues more traffic tickets than another is unclear, says John Bowman, a spokesman for the motorists group. Overall rankings basically have stayed the same for the past few years; Bowman points to “a certain consistency” in the way states enforce traffic laws.
Bowman says he thinks ticket revenue is a major incentive for some states. "Traffic enforcement is a lucrative business for cities and states, generating billions of dollars a year in revenues. The bigger the budget gap that needs to be filled, the more aggressive the traffic enforcement," he says.
Bowman says states also apply for federal money to step up traffic enforcement campaigns, often around holiday seasons when motorists flood the roads. As part of the grant-seeking process, states often must forecast how many citations they plan to write, so there's a built-in incentive to try to meet that goal, he says.
This financial incentive may be one of the reasons why Georgia ranks No. 2, says George Creal Jr., an attorney in Atlanta who specializes in traffic offenses. "There's a lot of pressure from the governor's office to provide more aggressive traffic enforcement," he says.
Certain Georgia counties -- such as Atlanta, Duluth, Dublin and Marietta – are known for overzealous ticketing, Creal says. "You get state money if you're making a certain number of arrests and issuing a certain number of tickets. They're referred to as 'performance objectives,'" he says.
Miles of trouble in Nevada
More than 500 miles of highways connecting Nevada to other states makes the probability of getting ticketed in Nevada fairly high, says Chuck Allen, a spokesman for the Nevada Highway Patrol. He was unaware of Nevada's No. 1 ranking on the National Motorists Association list.
Allen thinks the prevalence of interstate highways in Nevada -- especially in the Las Vegas area -- make it more likely that drivers traveling through the state will be ticketed at some point along the way. In addition, much of Interstate 80 in Nevada is desolate and barren, Allen says, making it tempting to disobey the speed limit.
Each state handles tickets and violations differently. For example, in Georgia you receive points on your license only when you've be caught going at least 14 miles per hour over the speed limit, Creal says.
By contrast, if you're caught driving one to 10 miles over the speed limit in Nevada, you'll earn one point on your license for each offense. Twelve or more points within a 12-month period will result in a license suspension.
In Illinois, however, you're less likely to be ticketed than in Nevada or Georgia. The National Motorists Association puts Illinois at No. 22 on its 50-state list.
In Illinois, "there is a large state police presence on our highways and interstates, so it is known that the odds of a state trooper sitting on the side of the road around the next turn is likely," says Keith Verisario, vice president of All-Security Insurance Agency Inc. in Illinois. "Maybe that slows people down a bit."
If you are caught speeding anywhere, the increase in your auto insurance premium depends on the severity of the violation, Verisario says. Assuming don't have any other blemishes on your traffic record, you can expect a $50 to $100 increase in your car insurance premium for a speeding ticket.