California

California has cheap speeding tickets, study finds. The reality is more complex — and costly

A visual glance at California fatal DUI statistics

Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities increased in California in 2016, according to an Office of Traffic Safety report.
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Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities increased in California in 2016, according to an Office of Traffic Safety report.

Does California have some of the lowest speeding tickets in the nation?

That’s the finding of a study from car insurance website GoCompare, which looked at the penalty in all 50 states for a first-time offense driving 13 mph above the speed limit. 

But, as is often the case, the reality is more complicated.

At $35, California is the sixth best state in the nation to get busted with a lead foot, GoCompare found. Taking the top five are Oklahoma and Alabama (tied at $20), New Mexico ($30), Delaware ($33) and Idaho ($33.50).

However, that $35 ticket in California is just the beginning. 

Add in all additional surcharges and penalty assessments and and that $35 ticket could look a lot more like a $237 ticket depending on where you get pulled over, according legal help website DrivingLaws.org.

As for Nevada, which GoCompare listed as having the worst speeding ticket in the country, fines can rise up to $1,000. Speeding is a misdemeanor in Nevada, which does carry a fine of up to $1,000 but in reality the fine varies by jurisdiction and usually costs a few hundred dollars, according to Nevada traffic attorneys.

Of course, speeding can extract a much heavier price. Traffic collisions as a result of speeding killed 1,056 people in California in 2016, according to a study sponsored by the California Office of Traffic Safety. Nearly a third of all motor vehicle fatalities in the state were speeding related.

Nationwide, speeding killed more than 9,700 people in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That’s more than a quarter of all traffic fatalities for the year.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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