Contrary to popular belief, drivers in red cars don’t get ticketed more often than their less-flashy comrades. Middle-aged males with a thing for foreign brands, on the other hand, had better watch out.
Men who drive a Volkswagen GTI or Mercedes-Benz CLS-63 AMG are twice as likely to get a ticket than the average driver. If they’re in a Hummer, they might as well plan on it–drivers of the Hummer H2 face more than triple the chances of a citation.
“It’s the combination of the male driver driving the big old Hummer and a mid-life kind of person feeling good,” says Bob U’Ren, senior vice president at Quality Planning, a San Francisco-based company that validates policyholder information for auto insurers. “That’s the magical combination that drives some of these things.
To determine the cars most likely to get a ticket, Quality Planning’s analysts looked at traffic violation data from February 2009 through February 2010, counting the number of violations racked up by different car models. To account for the difference in number of cars on the road, they averaged the violation count per 100,000 miles driven. Vehicles that have been discontinued for more than 10 years were not included in the analysis.
The most-ticketed car on the road, the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class, is a two-door luxury convertible–suggested retail price for a SL550 Roadster is $102,600. Drivers of these cars are four times more likely to get a ticket than the average person.
Luxury coupes and sedans dominate our list: Only one SUV (the Hummer H2) and two hatchbacks (the Scion xB and Volkswagen GTI) appear on the top 10, and no minivans or wagons.
In fact, according to Quality Planning data, 8 of the 10 least-ticketed cars are SUVs and minivans. U’Ren says that’s because drivers who carry multiple passengers–especially young passengers in car seats–significantly alter the way they drive. (For example, it’s likely many drivers of No. 3, the Scion tC coupe, aren’t toting kids.)
Our list of the cars most likely to get a ticket includes only two autos manufactured by Detroit’s Big Three, both of them discontinued: the Hummer H2 and the Pontiac Grand Prix. Drivers of GM’s discontinued sedan are almost twice as likely than the average commuter to be ticketed behind the wheel.
Another standout on the list: the Toyota Camry. Not known for its glamor or luxury (or looks, performance, style, etc…) it makes the list for reasons having little to do with its mainstream popularity. U’Ren says there’s a large segment of Camry drivers who are proportionally disposed for violations: older women, who are less likely to be driving with kids. It’s also important to remember that this segment includes the Solara coupe–a sportier version than the ho-hum Camry sedan. “Sixty percent of those drivers are female, and they’re a little bit older–50 years old on average,” U’Ren says. “That’s the profile of the type of person that would buy and drive a Camry and Solara–and drive it quickly.”
So, what to do if you do get pulled over for speeding? Don’t automatically admit guilt. Don’t assume you’ll have to pay the full amount of the fine. And make sure you’ve done research about what your options are when you speak with the police officer. Many states allow discovery requests, which let drivers get police department information about their particular traffic violation–details like officer credentials, the device they used to monitor speed, traffic flow status, etc. If certain discrepancies come up, they could help reduce or remove the ticket fee, says Bonnie Sesolak, the development director for the National Motorists Association.
“Pay attention to what’s going on around you when the officer pulls you over,” Sesolak says. “Certainly be respectful. You can answer his questions, but you only need to answer the questions that are pertinent to why he pulled you over.”
Or try chalking it up to the proverbial mid-life crisis.
If you happen to get a traffic ticket, chances are an online traffic school will help you with your insurance. Depending on the state a traffic school can even erase a point from your record.