back to articles | May 07, 2024 | Moses Mwangi

Categories: Useful Automotive Information

The Most Common Traffic Tickets in the U.S.

While most traffic violations are minor administrative offenses, they can still have significant consequences. Among them are hefty fines, higher insurance premiums, restrictions on driving privileges, and suspension of your driver's license.


Driving is a part of everyday life for most people in the United States. There are more than 243 million licensed drivers in the U.S., making driving the most popular mode of transport. Unfortunately, not all drivers follow the letter of the law at all times while on the road, and traffic tickets are an all-too-common occurrence.

While most traffic violations are minor administrative offenses, they can still have significant consequences. Traffic tickets can result in hefty fines, higher insurance premiums, restrictions on driving privileges, and suspension of your driver's license. Some traffic offenses can even lead to a misdemeanor or felony charge. In this article, we'll discuss some of the most common traffic tickets in the U.S. and their consequences.


Speeding is by far the most common traffic ticket in the United States. It occurs when a driver exceeds the inflicted speed limit or drives too fast for the current road or weather conditions. Speeding is hazardous because it reduces a driver's reaction time, making it more difficult to avoid other vehicles on the road. It also reduces a driver's ability to maneuver their car, especially in turns and curves.

These are three types of speed limits. These include:

  • Absolute speed limit: This is the most common type of speed law. A good example of an absolute speed limit is when a post states that the speed limit is 65mph. Driving even one mph over the stated limit is violating the law.
  • Presumed speed limit: Only specific states, including Texas and California, apply a presumed speed limit. Provided you drive safely for the road and weather conditions, this system allows you to legally drive beyond the speed limit. For instance, you are presumed to be violating the speed law if you drive 40mph in a 35mph zone. However, the judge may dismiss your charges if you convince them you were driving safely.
  • Basic speed limit: This states that you can violate the basic speed law even when you drive at or below the stated speed limit. In such a situation, law enforcement can conclude that the driving speed limit is unsafe, considering the conditions. For instance, it can be unsafe to drive at 65mph if it's heavily raining or snowing, even if that is the posted limit.

Pay close attention to the speed limit signs while on the road. Being conscious of your speed can help prevent accidents and is the best way to avoid a costly ticket.

Driving under the influence

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious traffic violation and a crime offense. Typically, driving while intoxicated can lead to fatal accidents, injuries, or even death. In fact, according to the NHTSA, more than 11,000 people die every year as a result of drunk driving. Besides the physical risks, DUI may also lead to serious legal consequences, including hefty fines, license revocation or suspension, and even imprisonment.

Don't drink and drive. If you plan to drink, look for a designated driver, take a taxi or Uber, or use public transport. That way, you will keep yourself and other road users safe. Keep in mind that certain prescription drugs can make you DUI, even if it's legal for you to take them.

Reckless or unsafe driving

Reckless driving involves engaging in dangerous driving habits like overspeeding, tailgating, sudden braking, or swerving. If you are cited for this traffic offense, you can expect to receive a ticket or fine, and you might even face jail time in some cases.

Since reckless driving is somewhat subjective, it can be hard to avoid. However, maintaining safe driving habits, such as holding back your road rage, can help ensure you don't become a danger to other motorists.

Running a red light or stop sign

Running a red light, also known as beating the red, is another common traffic violation in the U.S. This often happens when a car enters an intersection after the traffic light turns red. Running a red right is not only a traffic offense but also increases the risk of accidents, posing a threat to the safety of people on foot and other vehicles.

Most jurisdictions have installed cameras at intersections to monitor and photograph vehicles that violate this traffic rule. A red light violation may result in fines, an increase in insurance premiums, or points on the driver's license. Be cautious when approaching a traffic right at an intersection and stop when the right turns red.

Distracted driving

Distracted driving has become a leading cause of accidents on the road in this digital era. Texting, talking on the phone, or looking for a great song on your car radio might seem harmless, but it's extremely dangerous and can lead to serious accidents. You might also face heavy fines or even lose your license if caught multiple times using your phone while driving.

Driving requires all your attention, meaning you can't be on your phone texting or scrolling through social media. If you must call someone, do it on speakerphone, put your phone down, and keep your hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road. Don't eat or drink behind the wheel. Furthermore, always let your front-seat passenger handle the music.

Driving without a valid license

Driving without a valid license is a felony in most states. This particularly occurs if your license has expired, been suspended or revoked due to a criminal offense, or you did not obtain one in the first place. Depending on your area, penalties for driving without a valid license include fines and vehicle impoundment, possible jail time, and community service. In some cases, this traffic violation can make it more difficult to obtain a valid driver's license in the future.

Ensure you meet the eligibility requirements, such as age and completion of a driver's training course, before you apply for a learner's permit or driver's license. Once you receive a valid license, keep track of the expiration date to avoid unintentionally driving with an expired license. Follow the specific procedures in your state and renew your license in good time.

Following too closely

Most rear-end accidents occur when a driver follows another vehicle too closely. Generally, it's a good idea to adhere to the three-second rule: ensure there is sufficient space between your car and the vehicle in front of you. That way, you will have at least three seconds to slow down in the event you need to come to a sudden stop.

Be sure to increase the time if you are driving at a high speed or in poor weather conditions. This will give you more time to react and help you maintain control of your car.

Driving without a seatbelt

Wearing a seatbelt is an easy and effective way to minimize the risk of serious injury or death in an accident. Unfortunately, most drivers still fail to wear their seatbelts, which is considered a traffic rule violation in most states.

Driving without a seatbelt is a safety risk and can result in a fine or points on your license. Fines for seatbelt offenses vary depending on the location and whether the offender is a driver or a passenger.

Regardless of the distance you are traveling and the speed of your car, always wear a seatbelt while in a moving vehicle. You should also ensure all your passengers are buckled up before starting the engine and lead by example by fastening your own seatbelt first.

Leaving the scene of an accident

Leaving the scene of an accident, also known as a hit-and-run, is a very serious traffic violation. Typically, the law requires the parties involved in the accident to pull over if it's safe and exchange contact and insurance information. The necessary procedures after an accident differ from one state to another, but requirements are often based on what type of damage occurred.

When a car hits an unattended vehicle or stationary property, most states often require them to leave a note with their contact details. However, the driver has to take reasonable steps to help the injured if there are injuries or property damage. You should also report the accident to the police.

Failing to follow the right procedure after an accident can result in a traffic ticket. At a minimum, it can lead to serious criminal charges, such as a potential felony, if you leave the scene of the accident where an injury or death has occurred.

Final thoughts

Traffic tickets can have severe consequences for your driving record and pocket. However, if you follow the rules of the road and drive safely, you can avoid getting a traffic ticket and the associated fines and penalties. Drive at a safe speed, avoid distractions, follow traffic signals, and never drive under the influence. That way, you can ensure a safer and more enjoyable driving experience for yourself and others on the road.

Most minor traffic tickets don't warrant legal help. However, if your situation is complicated or the charges are high, you can hire a criminal defense lawyer for legal advice. An experienced attorney can help you challenge a ticket, which can keep your driving record clean and save you from increased auto insurance costs.