It may not be much comfort if you’re the one getting a traffic ticket, but drivers in the Lone Star State may actually be getting off easy compared to other parts of the country. But does lax enforcement of traffic laws make a state less safe?
A recent report from personal finance site Wallet Hub puts Texas at the bottom of the list of “Strictest States on Speeding and Reckless Driving.” The state ranked 51st overall in a study that collected data from all 50 U.S. states as well as Washington D.C. The study assigned points to states based on several metrics related to speeding and reckless driving; the points were totaled to arrive at the overall strictness rank.
Among the factors that kept Texas in last place are:
- Speeding is not automatically considered reckless driving: In many states, exceeding the posted speed limit by a pre-determined amount of miles per hour (MPH) will automatically qualify as a reckless driving charge. But although in Texas a speeding violation may indeed lead to a reckless driving charge, there is no pre-defined threshold that will trigger the additional charge.
- Prima facie speed limits: Unlike some states which enforce “absolute” speed limits – meaning that if you exceed the posted speed limit by even 1 MPH, you are guilty of speeding – Texas is one of the states with “prima facie” speeding laws. If a driver in Texas can successfully argue in court that his speeding was “reasonable and prudent,” he can dodge a fine.
- Lower increase in insurance rates: Texas drivers’ annual insurance rates increase about 12% after their first speeding ticket, according to NerdWallet. In some states, the cost can increase as much as 40%.
- No state laws against racing: Although some Texas cities do have laws forbidding racing on the street, there is no statewide law in place, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
- Lower fines: In Texas, fines and court costs for a speeding conviction range from about $130 to $300, depending on the amount by which the driver exceeded the speed limit. The maximum fine for reckless driving is $200 (and/or 30 days in jail).
Delaware was ranked as the strictest state, followed by Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and California.
While Texans may see relatively lax traffic laws (combined with the highest speed limits in the country) as a plus, experts warn that there are potentially severe safety implications. Data compiled by the Auto Insurance Center shows that the states with the toughest traffic laws have the fewest road fatalities.
“While you can’t affect your own state’s laws, on a personal level, you can improve safety for you, your passengers, and others on the road,” the Auto Insurance Center study concludes. “Always buckle up (and insist your passengers follow suit); stick to the speed limit; and never get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. Additionally, if you are a parent of teens, talk to them frequently about safe driving habits.”
If you’ve been the victim of a reckless driving or speeding-related accident, contact the attorneys at the Evans Law Firm. The Evans Law Firm has years of experience representing personal injury victims, including victims of car accidents. Call today or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free case consultation.