The True Cost of a Speeding Ticket

Traffic law, Crime, Money

Getting a speeding ticket can be enough to ruin your day—especially when your citation eats up have your paycheck.  Later you’ll likely find yourself paying in more ways than one for your speeding ticket.

What You Really Pay For Speeding

State laws differ on how speeding tickets are handled, but for the most part speeding is considered a violation or infraction (not a crime). If you plead guilty, you will have to pay a fine but generally won’t face jail time—unless there are unusual, aggravating factors in your case—so pull over promptly and be nice.

Fines for speeding vary widely by state. In general, fines average between about $50 and $300, although they can be much higher in some states. Many states have a tiered system of fines based on how much you exceeded the posted speed limit. It’s not uncommon for the fine to increase for every 5 or 10 mph over the speed limit you were driving.

Some states also have higher fines or additional fines for things like repeat offenses or speeding in a work area, construction zone, school zone, or residential district. Other states run on a point system (points per violation or increasing points for increasingly serious violations, including increased speed).  Too many points within a period—generally 18 months to 3 years—and your license can be suspended.

In some cases, fees can be imposed on top of your fines, such as an administrative processing fee and driver assessment responsibility fees—which may actually exceed the cost of the ticket itself. If you are eligible to take traffic school to keep the ticket off your record, this carries a cost too. On the other hand, some jurisdictions impose a lower fine if you go to traffic school.  You can view typical traffic fines and fees by state at

Any convictions resulting from your traffic stop will warrant additional fines (and headaches) as well.  For DUI, you could end up shelling out $10,000 after bail, fines, fees (including those for getting your suspended license back), and insurance.  Your boss probably won’t love hearing that you can’t make it to work because your in jail, possibly landing you in an even more serious financial bind when you’re fired.

Then there’s the jump in your car insurance rates that follows a speeding ticket.  According to, minor traffic violations will raise your rates by about 10 to 15 percent, while more serious offenses like your first DUI or reckless driving ticket could slap you with a 22 percent increase.

What to Expect in Traffic Court

When you receive a traffic ticket, you generally have the right to fight it in traffic court.  While paying the ticket without a fight is easier, it can sometimes be worth fighting.

When fighting a case in court, be sure to read up on the details of the case.  Read definitions associated with the laws you have been accused of breaking.  You may be able to access information on the radar unit used by the police officer who cited you—repair records, calibration records, and a certificate of accuracy for the tuning fork.

You should also look into the police officer’s arrest records around and since the time of your citation (which could show a pattern in the officer’s activity that could help your case), the officer’s daily log for the day of your offense, copies of your original citation, and any other statements or diagrams associated with your case.

If you’re able to find any discrepancies, your case could potentially be thrown out, meaning you’re off the hook.  If not, you can at least try to ask the judge for a reduced fine if you have a previously spotless record.

Next Time You Get Pulled Over

Keeping calm during a traffic stop is obviously key to not making your situation worse.  While it’s a stressful situation, being belligerent to a police officer is never a good idea. Pull over when prompted, be polite, and be cooperative.  Always make sure you have your driver’s license and important papers with you (not having proof of insurance with you warrants a $796 fine in California, for example).

If the officer asks if you know why you’ve been pulled over, do NOT reply by stating that you were perhaps speeding—and don’t say that you don’t know how fast you were going either, as this won’t help you fight your case later.  If you don’t believe you were speeding, say so.  If you continue to be cooperative and polite, the officer may let you off with a warning.