Some states crack down harder than others. See how yours stacks up—and keep these findings in mind if you're heading out on the road this summer.

By Dan Nosowitz

It’s road trip season! There’s nothing better than piling into a car and going for a long drive, which for many of us involves crossing state borders—and venturing into new territory. Maybe a neighboring state isn’t foreign in the sense of using a different language or currency, but the laws of the road might change. And your driving might have to change with them, especially if you have a habit of, ahem, driving with a lead foot.

Image courtesy of Getty.

WalletHub put together an elaborate ranking of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, looking into exactly how bad it is to get caught while speeding in each state/district. The ranking was developed using a points system, where extra strictness earned a state extra points. That strictness comes from a variety of punishments and rules. How much above the speed limit counts as reckless driving? How much does insurance go up after a speeding ticket? How many speeding tickets equals a suspension? What are the fines (or even jail time) for reckless driving? And many more factors.

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Interestingly, there’s little connection between which states are either the strictest or most lenient. They’re not similar geographically or in population density. It seems to be...mostly random! Which makes a list like this even more useful, if you like to drive fast across multiple states.

The strictest states are, in order from most to least: Delaware, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and California. The most lenient states, again from most to least? Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, New Jersey, and Nebraska. Before you note that those most lenient states seem to be in the American Southeast, let’s take a look at some others. North Carolina holds the 7th-strictest position, and Alabama and Virginia are tied for the 8th-strictest.

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The article reported that 42 percent of states and DC employ traffic cameras to catch and fine speeders. It also noted that the average maximum fine for reckless driving is $845, with the minimum being $100. 

You might also be wondering how these rankings relate to the safeness of driving in each state. Do stricter speeding laws translate to safer streets? (Or, maybe, are stricter laws in response to bad drivers?) The answer is, not really, no.

In terms of average annual car-related fatalities per 100,000 people, the deadliest states for drivers are, in order, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut. All of those states, with the exception of lenient New Jersey, are roughly in the middle of the strictest-speeding-laws list; what they have in common is clearly geography and population density, rather than punishment for driving too fast.

So you might want to keep both those lists in mind as you depart on your summer road trips with your girlfriends or family this year. Or kick up your feet and enjoy a scenic train ride instead.

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