The Cost of Speeding

Photo by Mauro Sbicego on Unsplash

I’ve gotten one speeding ticket in my life.

I was driving down El Camino Real in Palo Alto on a Friday night, on my way home after an ultimate frisbee pickup game. The road was eerily quiet and I was zoning out after running non-stop for the past two hours.

Suddenly, I noticed the dreaded flashing lights in my rear-view mirror. And when I pulled over, the officer promptly informed me of my 50+ mph speed in a 35 mph zone, slapped me with the ticket, and sped off. As I shamefully merged back onto the road, all I could think was, how am I going to tell my parents?

Tickets are meant to deter speeding. But besides the familial and mental distress, do they punish speedsters enough from a fiscal standpoint to kill the need for speed? I wanted to find out.

Let’s assume a baseline set of numbers for a California driver:

  • 10,000: average number of miles driven each year
  • 15%: chance of getting a ticket each year
  • $230: average cost of a ticket for driving up to 15 mph over the speed limit in a non-construction zone
  • $25: hourly cost of your time
  • $50: cost of traffic school to remove the point on your record
  • 8: hours to complete traffic school
  • $400: increase in annual insurance premium from getting a ticket

Now we can calculate how much time, and therefore money, we save by driving faster. Then we compare it to how much it costs to pay the tickets we’ll get from speeding.

So it turns out that speeding is the economically rational thing to do. Even when accounting for variations in mph, the time saved from speeding far outweighs the cost. As much as people complain about the cost of speeding tickets, I’d argue they actually aren’t high enough to be a true deterrent!

Personally, my goal is to avoid getting another speeding ticket. Not having a car certainly helps. And when I do drive, I like to minimize my lane changes and drive at the speed limit, which causes no shortage of (now justified) teasing from my partner.




Endlessly curious, always optimizing. Startup and product enthusiast.

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Vincent Tsao

Vincent Tsao

Endlessly curious, always optimizing. Startup and product enthusiast.

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