STUDY: 9 in 10 drivers admit to speeding even though a third say it’s unacceptable

Drivers are aware of the costs and risks of speeding, but do it anyway



Speeding is one of the most dangerous – and expensive – behaviors a driver can engage in, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimating that it costs Americans $40.4 billion every year. New research from The Zebra shows that drivers often contradict themselves when it comes to speeding, and that they overlook its hidden cost: insurance premiums shooting up.

The Zebra’s research found that:

  • 9 in 10 drivers admit to speeding, even though 82% believe it’s dangerous and 35% say it’s always unacceptable.
  • Drivers believe that speeding is the safest of four traffic violations – even though it kills the most people. 
  • It’s possible, but unlikely, to talk your way out of a ticket: Only a small percentage of drivers tries and succeeds.
  • Speeding costs an average of $1,177 in insurance rate hikes over three years, but increases vary from state to state.

9 in 10 drivers admit to speeding, even though 8 in 10 know it’s dangerous

U.S. drivers contradict themselves when it comes to speeding. Of the 87% of drivers who admit to speeding at least a few times a year, 35% say it's never acceptable. Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents said that speeding is unacceptable in a school zone, while only 64% said that it’s unacceptable with a child in the car.

But the most serious contradictions drivers hold about speeding have to do with how risky it is. It’s a classic case of “it won’t happen to me”: A whopping 82% of drivers agree that speeding is dangerous, but only 16% say that when they don’t speed, it’s because they’re concerned for their safety.

Forty percent of respondents said that speeding is acceptable when there isn’t much traffic. However, other drivers aren’t the only dangers on the road. Only 39% of fatal crashes are due to a collision with another car. The majority – 52% – are due to a crash with an object. 



Survey respondents also ranked speeding as the least dangerous of four driving behaviors, after driving under the influence, distracted driving and road rage. But, in fact, of those four behaviors, speeding is the most related to traffic fatalities. Seventeen percent of driver deaths are associated with speeding, compared to 10% with driving under the influence, 5% with road rage and 5% with distracted driving.

"Talking your way out" of a ticket typically isn't successful

Most of the time, drivers aren’t going to get out of a traffic stop without a ticket. Of the respondents who were stopped for speeding, 72% reported that they were ticketed, while 26% said they got a warning.



Trying to talk your way out of a ticket can work, but it doesn’t happen often. Of the 72% of respondents who were stopped and ticketed, 29% tried to talk their way out of it; one in three of that group managed to. Women tried less often, but talked their way out at a higher rate than men when they did.



Speeding costs an average of $1,177 in insurance rate increases over three years

Speeding tickets are expensive. One in three respondents reported paying $100-199 for their ticket alone, but some paid more than $700. 



However, the one-time cost of a speeding ticket is just part of the expense. Eighty-three percent of respondents said that they know that getting a ticket will increase their insurance rates, but only 4% were worried about their insurance rate increasing. They should be: The true cost of speeding is the ticket plus at least three years of insurance rate hikes. Seventy-six percent of speeding tickets cost less than $300, but over three years, having the violation on their record will run drivers $1,177 on average – perhaps taking away from other areas of their budgets.

Rate increases after traffic violations, including speeding, vary state by state. But speeding is special: Most states have higher penalties the faster a driver is going over the limit. So someone in New York who’s ticketed for driving eight miles an hour over the limit will pay $85 more per year, but someone in California would pay $792 more per year for the same offense. A driver in Texas going 18 miles per hour over the limit will pay $122 per year in insurance rate increases, but in Michigan, drivers will pay a whopping $1,920 more – for at least three years.

Rate increases by state and violation

StateSpeeding 6-10 MPH over the limitSpeeding 11-15 MPH over the limitSpeeding 16-20 MPH over the limitSpeeding 21-25 MPH over the limitSpeeding in a 65 MPH zoneSpeeding in a school zone
District of Columbia$269$269$269$436$269$269
New Hampshire$229$247$247$354$354$280
New Jersey$268$268$592$592$387$367
New Mexico$284$284$284$302$222$311
New York$85$85$366$405$362$85
North Carolina$346$493$493$493$493$346
North Dakota$254$280$280$315$315$296
Rhode Island$516$516$614$638$614$516
South Carolina$277$273$273$296$311$290
South Dakota$314$314$277$409$409$325
West Virginia$334$334$334$373$478$334



When asked the top reason why they choose not to speed, 43% of drivers cited reasons having to do with the law: They want to respect the rules of the road, they don’t want to have an interaction with the police or they don’t want a violation on their record. But 21 million speeders get caught every year. In case you’re tempted to speed anyway, keep this in mind:

  • The faster you drive, the less control you have. As your speed creeps up, so does your stopping distance – the distance at which you need to brake to avoid hitting an object.
  • It’s not safe to speed even when the roads are clear. Hitting an object is more frequently the cause of accident-related deaths than hitting a moving car.
  • Speeding is expensive on top of being dangerous. The cost of speeding isn’t just a speeding ticket, but insurance rate increases for at least three years.

Although speeding can seem like an easy, no-consequence solution for drivers who are impatient, in a hurry or running late, it’s not worth the costs – financial or otherwise.


The Zebra’s report presents the findings of an anonymous online survey of 1,210 drivers from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., ages 18-85. The survey was conducted by independent research firm SurveyGizmo from October 21-27, 2020, and the results were reviewed for quality control.

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