How Is a Speeding Ticket Calculated?

by Gregory Hamel

Speeding Ticket Fines Vary by State

One of the things every driver dreads is seeing the flashing lights of a police car in his rear view mirror. What most drivers don't know is just how much money being pulled over will cost them. The simple answer is: there is no definite answer. There are many different costs which can come into play when being assessed a speeding ticket, but most importantly, the calculation used to fine speeding drivers is set by state law, so a speeding violation might result in a $50 fine in one state, and $150 in another. For instance, the maximum cost of a first speeding violation in North Dakota is $20, while in Vermont, it is $1000.

Fines Increase at Higher Speeds

Many states set a flat fee rate for speeding tickets up to a certain amount of speed above the speed limit. For example, a state might mandate a $50 fine for the first ten miles per hour of speed above the speed limit. This means if one is caught going 48 mph in a 40 mph zone, the ticket will be the same as if they were going 50 mph, or 45 mph. In addition to flat fees, ticket costs begin to ramp up at higher speeds in excess of flat rates, which reflect the increased danger of cars going well above the speed of traffic. For instance, many states put an additional fine on each mile per hour of speed above any flat fees. In Massachusetts for instance, an additional $10 per mph is fined, so going 60mph in a 40 zone would result in a $50 flat fee, plus a $100 fine for going 10 extra miles per hour above the flat fee speed, resulting in a $150 ticket. Highly excessive speeds may ramp up the cost of a ticket more dramatically, but tickets are limited by state-set maximum fees. Fees for a first speeding violation will often be less severe than repeated violations, or have lower maximum fines.

Additional Fees and Externalities Increase the Cost of Tickets

What each state may calculate the speeding fees of a ticket with a given formula taking into account the speed of the driver, there are many external fees and costs which can add to the ticket price. For instance, a state may have an addition flat fee for any speeding which exceeds 50mph, as it poses a larger risk of creating a fatal accident than speeding at slower speeds. Another cost which can end up costing much more than the speeding ticket itself is the effect it has on insurance premiums. When an insurance company finds out one has gotten a speeding ticket, premiums are likely to go up, which can result in hundreds of dollars of additional insurance costs over several years until the ticket drops off one's record. Sometimes tickets can be kept off one's record if the driver avoids getting another ticket within a year of the first. This rule is a mechanism to get drivers that might normally speed to drive more slowly.

About the Author

Gregory Hamel has been a writer since September 2008 and has also authored three novels. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from St. Olaf College. Hamel maintains a blog focused on massive open online courses and computer programming.