States with the Most Heavily Enforced Traffic Laws

It’s key to obey the rules of the road anywhere you drive, both for your own safety and for others.’ And it’s best to be particularly prudent in some states, where drivers are ticketed more often than average. 

In the summer, roads are not as congested during rush hour as they are from fall to spring. Yet, the volume of traffic actually increases — by nearly 8 percent, or 21 billion vehicle miles — from June to August, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. People across the country take advantage of the warm weather during summer for outdoor activities or for travel. 

It may be surprising to learn that this year’s unique circumstances have actually increased traffic volume on America’s roads past usual levels. This is because many who are wary of public transportation due to COVID-19 have opted instead to drive. In fact, according to Apple Maps’ Mobility Trends Reports, June has seen driving rise thirty-four percent above baseline levels in January. Taking seasonality into account, Americans are still driving significantly more than usual this month than they have in previous years. At the same time, the use of public transportation remains low in the United States, hovering around forty-eight percent below baseline. 

With traffic at an all-time high in the United States, respecting driving laws is paramount to maintain road safety. And in states where policing is especially strict, doing so eliminates the risk of a traffic ticket; law enforcement on the roads varies by state, as officers in some states may be more inclined to give a ticket than a warning. 

Curious to identify where traffic policing is heaviest in America, the data scientists at Insurify turned to their database and ranked each state based on its share of drivers with a traffic infraction on their record. Without further ado, here are the ten states with the most heavily-enforced traffic laws, where drivers should remember to be on their best behavior this summer.

Insights

heat map of states with the most traffic citations.

  • National and regional averages. Across all states, 22.45 percent of drivers have one or more traffic infractions on their record (including an at-fault accident). And while there is greater variation among individual states, no one region is host to significantly heavier traffic enforcement than others. Specifically, traffic enforcement in the four Census Bureau-designated regions falls closely around the national average; 23.85, 23.33, 21.87, and 21.53 percent of drivers in the Midwest, West, South, and Northeast, respectively, have one or more traffic infractions on their record.
  • America’s speed demons. The most common traffic infraction in all states is speeding, and 10.59 percent of all drivers in the United States have this infraction on their record. And as navigation systems with user-submitted information on police officer locations and speed traps become more ubiquitous, an increasing number of drivers may be tempted to speed where they know they can get away with it. What implications does this have for road safety? 
  • More police officers, more enforcement of traffic laws? Not according to the data. Using data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and the FBI, Insurify’s data scientists calculated the calculation between the density of police officers in each state and rates of these traffic infractions by state. Namely, they found that states with a high proportion of traffic infractions do not have a correspondingly high density of police officers, either in terms of police officers to drivers, or in terms of police officers to total miles of road. 

Methodology

The data science team at Insurify referred to their database of over 2.5 million car insurance applications, to determine the states with the most heavily-enforced traffic laws. In order to apply for car insurance, drivers disclose personal and vehicle information, including whether they have accumulated any at-fault accidents or traffic infractions on their record. Drivers also list their state of residence. The most common moving violations, including DUIs, speeding, reckless driving, failure to stop infractions, and at-fault accidents, were included in the analysis. At-fault accidents were included in this analysis, as police reports play a highly influential role in determining whether either driver (or both) is at fault in an accident. The proportion of drivers with one or more of these infractions on their record was calculated for each state. 

The number of licensed drivers per state, police officers per state, and traffic fatality data come from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s latest Uniform Crime Reporting statistics, and the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, respectively. For each state, the density of police officers per state was calculated by dividing the number of police officers by the number of licensed drivers. 

States with the Most Heavily-Enforced Traffic Laws

10. Idaho

  • Percentage of drivers with any prior incident: 27.73% (1.24 times the national average) 
  • Density of police officers: 26 per 10,000 drivers

Kicking off the countdown is Idaho, which ranks tenth in the nation for the most heavily-enforced traffic laws. The Gem State also has the tenth-highest rates of DUIs in the nation and the ninth-highest rates of speeding. Idaho is also adopting a new driving law: beginning July 1, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with an electronic device in hand, and drivers risk a $75 fine for a first-time offense. To allow drivers time to adjust to this new law, officers will issue warnings until December 31.

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9. Colorado

  • Percentage of drivers with any prior incident: 28.14% (1.25 times the national average)
  • Density of police officers: 30 per 10,000 drivers

Colorado ranks ninth in the nation for the most heavily-enforced traffic laws. And, despite Colorado’s many mountain roads leading to treacherous driving conditions, drivers continue to speed: Colorado has the eighth-highest share of speeding tickets in the nation. Law enforcement in The Centennial State also has been vigorously battling DUIs via The Heat Is On Campaign. Aiming to reduce drunk driving, crashes, and related injuries and fatalities, The Heat Is On is conducted throughout the year in Colorado, with major enforcements during holiday periods.

8. South Carolina

  • Percentage of drivers with any prior incident: 28.27% (1.26 times the national average)
  • Density of police officers: 24 per 10,000 drivers

Driving in South Carolina is more dangerous than in any other state, so we weren’t surprised to find it ranking on this list. The Palmetto State has the highest rate of traffic fatalities per million miles traveled, according to the NHTSA’s Traffic Safety report. Clearly, law enforcement has been cracking down on misbehaving drivers. Additionally, out of all other states, South Carolina has the sixth-highest share of at-fault accidents and the fourth-highest share of speeding tickets per driver.

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7. North Dakota

  • Percentage of drivers with any prior incident: 28.64% (1.28 times the national average)
  • Density of police officers: 34 per 10,000 drivers

North Dakota ranks seventh on this list, but it also has the second-highest share of DUI citations and sixth-highest share of speeding tickets in the nation. North Dakota doesn’t rely only on ticketing to discourage unlawful driving behaviors. In fact, The Peace Garden State recently concluded its fifth annual Share the Road Safety Week, during which residents are encouraged to celebrate safe bicycling and walking on North Dakota roadways and to educate themselves and others about safe driving practices. 

6. Nebraska

  • Percentage of drivers with any prior incident: 28.69% (1.28 times the national average)
  • Density of police officers: 24 per 10,000 drivers

Sixth in the nation for the most heavily-enforced traffic laws, Nebraska also has the eighth-highest rates of DUIs and at-fault accidents in the United States, and the 10th-highest for speeding. Drivers in Nebraska, in particular, should exercise caution this summer, as the state has experienced one of the greatest increases in driving since baseline levels in January, according to Apple Mobility Trends data. As of the beginning of July, driving is up a whopping 81 percent and shows no sign of decreasing as COVID-19 restrictions loosen in the state.

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5. Wyoming

  • Percentage of drivers with any prior incident: 28.90% (1.29 times the national average)
  • Density of police officers: 29 per 10,000 drivers

Wyoming rounds out the top five states in the nation with the most heavily-enforced traffic laws. Like Nebraska, Wyoming’s drivers also have three other dubious distinctions under their belts: drivers in the Cowboy State have the highest share of DUIs, the seventh-highest share of speeding tickets, and the eighth-highest share of red light violations in the nation. 

4. Wisconsin

  • Percentage of drivers with any prior incident: 29.06% (1.29 times the national average)
  • Density of police officers: 31 per 10,000 drivers

Wisconsin ranks within the top five states in the nation with the most heavily-enforced traffic laws. Law enforcement in the Badger State takes road safety seriously, and this state also has the fifth-highest citation rate for speeding and for DUIs. Drivers in Wisconsin should exercise extra caution this summer; as of the beginning of July, driving in Wisconsin is 76 percent above January’s baseline levels, according to Apple Maps’ Mobility Trends report, and it continues to trend upwards.  

3. Iowa 

  • Percentage of drivers with any prior incident: 29.66% (1.32 times the national average)
  • Density of police officers: 25 per 10,000 drivers

With 32 percent more drivers with a prior incident on their record than the national average, Iowa ranks third in the United States for the most heavily-enforced traffic laws. Drivers in Iowa are handed speeding tickets 66 percent more frequently than average, landing The Hawkeye State state in third place for the highest share of speeders. Yet despite Iowa’s heavy policing of law-breaking drivers, recent reports suggest that speeders in Iowa have been reaching all-time highs during the pandemic. Many have taken advantage of the open roads, reaching speeds above 125 miles per hour, according to law officials in the state. 

2. Virginia

  • Percentage of drivers with any prior incident: 29.82% (1.33 times the national average)
  • Density of police officers: 34 per 10,000 drivers

Virginia ranks second in the nation for the most heavily-enforced traffic laws. Like Iowa, law enforcement in Virginia has cracked down hard on drivers with a lead foot. The Old Dominion has the second-highest citation rate for speeding in the nation — 67 percent higher than the national average — where many drivers are caught in the state’s notorious speed traps on interstate highways near Richmond. Running reds isn’t taken lightly in Virginia, either, as the drivers in this state have the ninth-highest share of red light violations in the nation. 

1. Ohio

  • Percentage of drivers with any prior incident: 31.28% (1.39 times the national average)
  • Density of police officers: 17 per 10,000 drivers

Ohio may have the lowest ratio of officers to drivers, but this state ranks number one for the most heavily-enforced traffic laws in the nation. The Buckeye State also ranks first in the nation for speeding, with 69 percent more speeders on its roads than the national average. Drivers with an at-fault accident on their record are also more common in this state than in others, as Ohio ranks seventh in the nation for this offense. 

If you have questions or comments about this article, please contact insights@insurify.com.

Updated July 12, 2020

Insurify’s team of data scientists and content specialists presents Insurify Insights, a series of automotive, home, and health studies focusing on the topics that impact us all. Through expert analysis of over 2.5 million car insurance applications and an array of top data sources, the Insurify Insights team produces new data-driven articles, trend analyses, regional superlatives, and national rankings every week. See Insurify Insights as featured in Forbes, Fox News, USA Today, NPR, and more.