The Worst US States for Speed Traps, Ranked

Speed trap: a stretch of road where the speed limit drops suddenly, without any justification. Everyone knows that one small town along the highway where 98.99% of the time there's an officer waiting, radar gun in hand, to generate some revenue for his or her local force. Your right foot jumps off the pedal, your eyes dart down to the speedometer, your lungs fall into your butt... it's one of those quintessential "oh shit" moments.

Which areas of our great nation are most guilty of this cruel-and-unusual practice? The National Motorists Association, via its website, has been compiling user-submitted data on speed traps for over a decade, and the folks at Cheap Car Insurance just pored over the numbers (you can see the full report here). Looking at how many speed traps are reported per 100,000 residents, we've ranked the states from the least-to-worst offenders, plus the city and most commonly reported intersection or stretch of road you should definitely watch out for. Turns out Vermont isn't as chill as we all thought. 

Take note, all ye joy-riders, and stay safe out there. 

Anchorage highway

51. Alaska

Worst speed-trap city: Anchorage
Most notorious speed trap: Not enough data
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 9.9
Quick: name three cities in Alaska. Unless you actually live there, you probably stopped at Anchorage and Juneau... which is a big part of why there's not enough data to properly assess all the state's speed-trap hubs. You win by default, Alaska, you sly dog.

50. North Dakota

Worst speed-trap city: Grand Forks
Most notorious speed trap: Highway 281, near Jamestown
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 11.5
For a sparsely populated state with lots of open road and tiny towns that fit the speed-trap stereotype, North Dakota does an admirable job of resisting the temptation.

49. Mississippi

Worst speed-trap city: Meridian
Most notorious speed trap: Highway 4, through Senatobia
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 12.3
Forty-nineth in the country makes Mississippi sound like an excellent place for a road trip in a classic muscle car, does it not?

48. South Dakota

Worst speed-trap city: Rapid City
Most notorious speed trap: Not enough data
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 12.3
The top city for speed traps in South Dakota is... Rapid City. Oh the irony!

47. Kentucky

Worst speed-trap city: Bowling Green
Most notorious speed trap: I-65 at I-265, Louisville
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 12.5
Overall, Kentucky isn't bad at all. Bowling Green, though, is a mecca for Corvette enthusiasts. Cops love Corvettes.

46. Montana

Worst speed-trap city: Missoula
Most notorious speed trap: W Broadway St and McCormick, Missoula
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 13
The single most notorious speed trap in Montana is on Broadway St in Missoula. If that doesn't ring any bells, consider that the twisted (but brilliant!) mind of David Lynch comes from there. Of course, we can't prove speed traps caused his warped filmmaking style...

Hawaii has some sneaky Speed Traps
Screenshot via Google

45. Hawaii

Worst speed-trap city: Honolulu
Speed traps per 100,000 people: 12.7
Most notorious speed trap: Pali Highway, by Nuuanu Ave, Honolulu
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 13.5
Look, is the Pali Highway on the way out of Honolulu the worst spot in Hawaii? Yeah, probably. But the million-and-one tourist traps in Honolulu will lighten your wallet just as effectively as a speeding ticket.

44. Nebraska

Worst speed-trap city: Bellevue
Most notorious speed trap: 72nd St and Ames, Omaha
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 13.6
It's potentially one of the larger surprises on this list that Lincoln -- with its student-heavy population -- isn't the worst town for speed traps in Nebraska. Instead, that honor goes to Bellevue, with more than double the state average.

43. Arizona

Worst speed-trap city: Prescott Valley
Most notorious speed trap: Along US 87 aka Beeline Highway
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 14.2
Overall, Arizona's not bad -- better than most states, anyway -- just don't tell that to people in the Northern Phoenix suburbs, OK?

42. North Carolina

Worst speed-trap city: Hickory
Most notorious speed trap: State Highway 49, outside of Asheboro
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 14.8
I'm probably going to get Tar Heel and feathered for this pun, but I can't resist: there are plenty of smokeys in Hickory. It makes sense, though: when the best BBQ in America is basically one town over, you've gotta go.

41. Idaho

Worst speed-trap city: Idaho Falls
Most notorious speed trap: ID 75, Ketchum
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 15
Tourism is a big thing in the Sun Valley region of Idaho, which tends to explain the lack of mercy shown by the local constabulary.

Utah highway

40. Utah

Worst speed-trap city: Sandy
Most notorious speed trap: Highway 89
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 15.4
All of Utah's worst speed-trap places (Salt Lake City comes in second to its own suburb, Sandy) are about 20 miles from the Bonneville Salt Flats, where countless attempts at the land speed record have been made.

39. Iowa

Worst speed-trap city: Cedar Rapids
Most notorious speed trap: Asbury Rd, near Dubuque
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 16
There's a halfway plausible explanation for Iowa's most reported speed trap: it happens to be right by a winery. If it stops anyone from doing something stupid, it's worth it.

38. New York

Worst speed-trap city: Troy
Most notorious speed trap: Niagara Falls Blvd, Buffalo
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 16
OK, I get that Niagara Falls is one of the world's most awe-inspiring bits of natural beauty, but is there really such a rush to see something that's never going to move that it justifies the state's worst speed trap?

37. California

Worst speed-trap city: Brea
Most notorious speed trap:El Dorado Freeway
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 17
Brea has nothing to do with the La Brea Tar Pits, but you'll still get, um, stuck, with a ticket. Sorry.

36. Washington, DC

Worst speed-trap city: N/A
Most notorious speed trap: 2200 Block of K St NW
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 15.2
15.2 speed traps per 100,000 people doesn't seem all that bad at first blush. You have to think about population density, though. There's literally no countryside to spread that number out. You're basically talking about a speed trap for every few city blocks in some areas.

Blue Skies? More Like blue lights.
Flickr/Kent Kanouse

35. New Mexico

Worst speed trap city: Rio Rancho
Most notorious speed trap: Pat D'Arco Highway at Corales Rd, Rio Rancho
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 18.9
The simple truth is that New Mexico isn't all that bad at the speed-trap game. Maybe that's why the aliens picked Roswell to land?

34. Kansas

Worst speed-trap city: Lenexa
Most notorious speed trap: Highway 24, through Rossville
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 19.1
If you take the non-interstate route from Topeka to K-State, you hopefully already know to keep your eyes peeled in Rossville.

33. Texas

Worst speed-trap city: Coppell (third worst in the nation)
Most notorious speed trap: Ocean and Arroyo, Los Fresnos
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 19.1
If you're going to or from DFW Airport via one of Dallas' myriad (and affluent) northern suburbs, chances are you're going to go through part of both Coppell and Grapevine -- which are not only the state's top-two worst cities for speed traps, but rank third and 18th in the entire country, respectively.

Yes, Las Vegas has Speed Traps
Flickr/Philipp Knall

32. Nevada

Worst speed-trap city: Carson City
Most notorious speed trap: Blue Diamond Rd at S Jones Blvd, Las Vegas
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 19.2
Carson City and Reno both trump Las Vegas by quite a bit here, but Vegas strikes back where it counts, with the speed trap at Blue Diamond Rd and Jones Blvd topping the rest of the state.

31. Indiana

Worst speed-trap city: Greenwood
Most notorious speed trap: US-41, through Terre Haute
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 19.5
Granted, Indiana is a below-average state for speed traps, but there's one set of speed traps that everyone tries to go through as fast as possible: at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

30. Pennsylvania

Worst speed-trap city: State College (seventh worst in the nation)
Most notorious speed trap: SH 36, through Alaska
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 19.6
With nearly 108 traps per 100,000 residents, State College is nearly five and a half times the state average. I wonder if you can factor that into your student loans when you apply to Penn State.

29. Connecticut

Worst speed-trap city: Milford
Most notorious speed trap: Along Route 8
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 19.7
The Connecticut speed-trap situation is fairly average, though ESPN employees trying to get from Bristol to the coast should watch out.

28. Minnesota

Worst speed trap city: Edina
Most notorious speed trap: I-35E at Shepard Rd, St. Paul
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 20.2
Minnesota's second-most speed trap-y city is Eden Prairie, which sounds so pleasant and peaceful. It's clearly anything but for drivers.

California actually has laws about speed traps
Screenshot via Google

27. Alabama

Worst speed-trap city: Madison
Most notorious speed trap:Quintard and 22nd, Anniston
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 20.8
In a move that should shock absolutely no one, Alabama's most reported speed trap is in a tiny town that's virtually halfway between Birmingham (the state's largest city) and Atlanta, which is filled with people that root for neither the Crimson Tide nor the Tigers.

26. Oregon

Worst speed-trap city: Beaverton
Most notorious speed trap: I-84 right on the Idaho border
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 21.3
The town of Ontario, Oregon is tiny, and located less than 1,000ft from the Idaho border on the Snake River. It's also downhill from the river. The Oregon Trail Highway's speed limit is 65mph once you cross into that downhill section, but it's 80mph on the Idaho side. Take all of those factors, add in an officer who likes to camp out in the median, allegedly with his lights off at night, and you've got one hell of a money maker funded by out-of-state drivers.

25. Missouri

Worst speed-trap city: Cape Girardeau
Most notorious speed trap: Bayless Ave at Lemay Ferry Rd, Lemay
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 21.8
The city with the second-highest trap density in Missouri is St. Peters, a suburb of St. Louis. It happens to be right next to St. Charles, so it seems fairly obvious that the police are just trying to lock up a monopoly to build hotels.

24. Maryland

Worst speed-trap city: Hagerstown
Most notorious speed trap: Prince Frederick Blvd, Prince Frederick
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 21.9
The most notorious speed trap in Maryland is in a small community near Prince Frederick. It's also on the way back to DC from a place called Dares Beach, which sounds infinitely more interesting.

23. Florida

Worst speed-trap city: Sarasota (the No. 1 worst city in the nation)
Most notorious speed trap: I-95 at NW 40th, Boca Raton
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 21.9
Think of the speed traps in Sarasota as a sort of user fee for having actual scenery instead of driving down I-75. Actually, Florida has some of the worst speed-trap cities in the country, with Boca Raton, Pensacola, Melbourne, and Ormond Beach all in the top 20. 

22. Washington

Worst speed-trap city: Bremerton (19th worst in the nation)
Most notorious speed trap: Highway 5 at 134th St, Vancouver
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 22.4
Can you pronounce Puyallup, Washington’s second-worst speed-trap hub? Figure that out here, then maybe you'll impress the officer when he walks up to your window.

21. Wyoming

Worst speed trap city: Casper
Most notorious speed trap: CanAm Highway, between Lusk and Newcastle
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 23.4
The CanAm Highway runs from Mexico to Northern Canada, but even more impressive, it's a part of the PanAm Highway -- which still hits Northern Canada (and Alaska) but also works its way through every country in North and South America, covering nearly 20,000 miles before the world’s longest drivable road winds up in Southern Argentina. The stretch in Wyoming is probably not the most dangerous part, but you'd still be wise to keep an eye peeled.

District of Speed Traps?
Flickr/Andrew Holmes

20. Virginia

Worst speed-trap city: Blacksburg
Most notorious speed trap: Highway 1 and Fuller Rd, Quantico
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 23.6
Virginia is for lovers... unless those lovers want to go to Quantico, in which case there's going to be an officer waiting for them with a citation.

19. Wisconsin

Worst speed-trap city: Brookfield
Most notorious speed trap: Tower Ave at 58th St, Superior
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 23.9
As Milwaukee begins to fade into the vast Wisconsin dairyland, it's suburban Brookfield that you'll have to watch out for; with just a few miles of land but basically one trap per mile, it's definitely a time when discretion should get the better of your speedy valor.

18. Georgia

Worst speed-trap city: Marietta (11th worst in the nation)
Most notorious speed trap: Lenora Church Rd, Snellville
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 23.9
As many a Georgia Bulldog student has no doubt learned, it's best to stay on the main highways heading home to Atlanta from Athens on the weekends. The town of Snellville isn't the only trap.

17. South Carolina

Worst speed-trap city: Greenville
Most notorious speed trap: SC 151, through McBee
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 24.2
There are just over 20 miles separating Greenville and Spartanburg, SC's second-worst trap city, and both are well over double the state's per-capita average. In between the two cities is nothing but an airport, and BMW's North American factory. I'm sure that's purely a coincidence though.

16. Arkansas

Worst speed-trap city: Fayetteville
Most notorious speed trap:US 63 and I-40, Hazen
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 24.5
The town of Hazen, home of the most notorious speed trap in the state, was originally located along Highway 70. Then, I-40 was built. Now, look at the overhead view of the town lines, and tell me if anything looks a little fishy to you.

Ohio road

15. Ohio

Worst speed-trap city: Cleveland Heights (10th worst in the nation)
Most notorious speed trap: Highway 49, through River Styx (really!)
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 24.8
Come on. There's actually a place called River Styx, and it's home to the worst speed trap in Ohio. Part of me actually wants to get a ticket there, just so I can say I got pulled over on the highway to hell.

14. Tennessee

Worst speed-trap city: Smyrna
Most notorious speed trap: Cedar St and Highland Dr, McKenzie
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 24.8
Tennessee is home to part of one of our nation's great stretches of road: the Tail of the Dragon. I'm not about to complain that it's not the No. 1 speed trap. In fact, forget I said anything. Moving on...

13. Massachusetts

Worst speed-trap city: Leominster
Most notorious speed trap: Boylston St at Reservoir Rd, Brookline
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 26.6
If you don't find it hilarious that Leominster leads the way in Massachusetts, consider that "minster" is an old English word for "church," and that LEO is an acronym for Law Enforcement Officer. Church of the Cop, Massachusetts.

12. Maine

Worst speed-trap city: Portland
Most notorious speed trap: Western Ave, by the Armory in Augusta
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 26.9
It’s fascinating, when you think about it: there's only enough data to nominate one town from Maine, yet Portland's numbers are actually below those of the state as a whole.

11. New Jersey

Worst speed-trap city: Sayreville
Most notorious speed trap: Lincoln Tunnel approach
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 27.3
Of course the worst speed traps are on the approach to the Lincoln Tunnel. Of course they are.

Connecticutt has some of the worst speed traps
Screenshot via Google

10. Colorado

Worst speed-trap city: Littleton (sixth worst in the nation)
Most notorious speed trap: US 285, near Alamosa
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 27.6
Littleton has had enough tragedy to fill cities with far more history and population. It gets a pass for having quadruple the state average for speed traps per capita.

9. West Virginia

Worst speed-trap city: Charleston
Most notorious speed trap: Rt 39 at Rt 60, Gauley Bridge
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 27.8
Gauley Bridge is one of those places that sorta extends its city boundaries in the direction of the highway. You can take it as read that you won't get a warning there.

8. Illinois

Worst speed trap city: Carol Stream (12th worst in the nation)
Most notorious speed trap: Arlington Heights Rd, Arlington Heights
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 27.9
Based on the fact that it’s 12th in the nation for per-capita speed traps, the town of Carol Stream could change its name to Carol "Revenue" Stream and be able to afford all new signs with the money its officers are raking in.

7. Louisiana

Worst speed-trap city: Baton Rouge
Most notorious speed trap: Highway 65, north of Lake Providence
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 28.5
Louisiana is part of a larger trend that, at least anecdotally, confirms the urban legend of highway patrol officers setting up shop right by a border to get out-of-staters. Highway 65, in the few miles that stretch from Lake Providence to Arkansas, is a road on which you're gonna want to keep your eyes peeled.

6. Rhode Island

Worst speed trap city: Pawtucket
Most notorious speed trap: Chestnut St, Bristol
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 28.7
Yes, Rhode Island ranks far higher than you might expect, but let's face it, everyone's just disappointed Quahog's not on the list.

Oklahoma highway
Flickr/Doug Wertman

5. Oklahoma

Worst speed-trap city: Moore
Most notorious speed trap: US 412 at the Arkansas border (shown)
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 30.7
The state's worst speed trap is located literally a couple hundred feet from the Arkansas border, which is blatant targeting of out-of-staters. What's truly interesting is that the state's two college towns (Norman and Stillwater) only ranked fourth and fifth worst in the state.

4. Delaware

Worst speed-trap city: Dover
Most notorious speed trap: James St and Highland Ave, Newport
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 32.3
Unless you go around Delaware exclusively using back roads through Maryland and then over to Philadelphia, you're more or less destined to pass through both Dover and Wilmington -- first and second worst in state, respectively -- which means you're trapped in more ways than one.

3. Michigan

Worst speed-trap city: Dearborn Heights (second worst in the nation)
Most notorious speed trap: Plymouth Rd and Middle Belt Rd, Livonia
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 36
Dearborn Heights is No. 2 in America on this list, behind Sarasota. But that's not the craziest part. Four of the top 10 cities in the country hail from the greater Detroit area: Livonia (fourth), Novi (fifth), and Taylor (eighth) all join Dearborn Heights with over 100 traps per 100,000 residents. That's absolutely stunning -- until you consider the state of government finances across the board in Michigan.

2. New Hampshire

Worst speed-trap city: Concord
Most notorious speed trap: NH 106, by the Laconia-Gilford Bypass
Total speed traps per 100,000 residents: 37.6
New HAMPSHIRE??? Really, we're not making this up: if you're headed to Lake Winnipesaukee -- of What About Bob? fame -- you’ll likely cross right through the worst speed trap in the state with the second most per capita of any state in the union. The best advice? Stay off of Highway 3, even when it doubles as I-93. It passes through Nashua (second worst in state), then Manchester (third), before hitting Concord (first), and up to Dr. Marvin's vacation home.

1. Vermont

Worst speed-trap city: Burlington
Most notorious speed trap: Highway 12, near Woodstock
Total speed traps per 100,000 people: 52.1
I'll readily grant that Vermont isn't a huge state, and that fact might skew the data and make its numbers jump off the page -- which they most certainly do. As the study points out, Vermont gets its fair share of attention for various speed-related crackdowns, though users repeatedly called out one specific stretch of I-89, describing an officer parked under a tree nabbing drivers going over 95mph. Of course, doing 95mph near trees isn't the smartest move, but if you're busted, Vermont's, ahem, Super Troopers are known to be susceptible to the horny German approach.

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Aaron Miller is the Cars editor for Thrillist, and can be found on Twitter. He really wants to traverse the CanAm Highway sometime, even with the speed traps.