Rules Of The Road: Jalopnik's Guide To Speed Limit EnforcementS

[Who knew the 10th amendment to the US Constitution would create the state-by-state patchwork quilt of driving laws we've got? Well, the founders did — despite their lack of cars. Fear not, interstate drivers, we here at Jalopnik have sorted through the red tape to bring you detailed guides to driving rules; everything from teenage driving, cell phone use, open containers, dehorsing and lemon laws. These are the Rules of the Road.] Previously, we provided a list of the maximum speed limit laws by state. This let you know where it would be possible to drive legally more than 70 mph on a two-lane road (thank you Texas Legislature). This week, we focus on actual enforcement by looking at how often states ticket their speeding citizens and how much those tickets may cost.

Enforcement Areas

Unlike certain laws, such as cell phone usage or seat belt infractions, speeding laws are almost universally primary. That means that you don't have to be breaking another law to get a ticket, though if you do break the law you could be looking at additional fines if you're breaking other laws.

The map above shows the volume of tickets issued by state patrols (in most cases) for speeding infractions. This is the total volume, so total population of drivers is not factored into the map. There are a few states that also did not participate in the Governor's Highway Safety Association report. California, Texas and the District of Columbia were the major ticket issuers by total number in 2003, but the District of Columbia, Wyoming and Vermont were the highest per capita issuers of tickets. Here were the top ten per capita ticket issuers:

Washington D.C.: 553,523 residents with 434,301 tickets = 78.5% of the population

Wyoming: 506,529 residents with 46,366 tickets = 9.2% of the population

Vermont: 621,394 residents with 52,269 tickets = 8.4% of the population

North Dakota: 634,366 residents with 45,510 tickets = 7.2% of the population

Mississippi: 2,902,966 residents with 197,434 tickets = 6.8% of the population

Maryland: 5,558,058 residents with 349,921 tickets = 6.3% of the population

New Mexico: 1,903,289 residents with 117,303 = 6.2% of the population

South Carolina 4,198,068 residents with 228,363 tickets = 5.4% of the population

Delaware: 830,364 residents with 44,551 tickets = 5.4% of the population

Massachusetts 6,416,505 residents with 337,103 tickets = 5.3% of the population

Highest Speeding Fines

As speeding is a state crime, it's up to the states to determine how much of a penalty can be levied for a first time offense (additional offenses can cause higher penalties, as well speeding in areas such as construction or school zones). The most expensive maximum fine is Virginia, with a first time offense of $1,500.

Here were the top ten most expensive fines in 2007:

Virginia: $1,500

Georgia: $1,000

Illinois: $1,000

Nevada: $1,000

New Hampshire: $1,000

North Carolina: $1,000

Utah: $759

Oregon: $600

Kansas: $500

Maryland: $500

While you may think these penalties are a bit steep, we'd point out that in Finland speeding tickets are proportional to income and a director at Nokia was slapped with a more than $100,000 fine for going 16 miles over the speed limit.

[Sources: The Newspaper, Governor's Highway Safety Association and Forbes]