At least pre-COVID, summertime in America has meant taking part in a time-honored tradition: the road trip. However, while these states may be united, they are often not only divided by the laws which govern their roadways but on how those laws are enforced.
To find out which state had the strictest driving laws in our nation, Finder compared the penalties for drunk driving, reckless driving, speeding, along with licensing laws across all 50 states and found that Delaware is the state with the strictest driving laws overall in the US.
Which state has the strictest driving laws?
According to Finder’s ranking system, Delaware takes top position for the state with the harshest driving laws. If you’re charged and convicted with reckless driving in Delaware, you could be hit with a seemingly reasonable $300 maximum fine and face a minimum of 10 days in incarceration.
While Delawareans need only renew their licenses every eight years, which is one of the longest renewal periods in the nation, citizens are required to pass an eye test at the DMV — no online or mail renewals for people from the Diamond State.
Other factors include a maximum speed limit of 65 mph across the state along with a minimum license suspension of one year and a maximum fine of $1,150 for drunk driving.
Want to know where your state ends up? Check out our interactive map or table.
States with strictest driving laws
|1 ||Delaware ||27 |
|2 ||Virginia ||25 |
|3 ||Colorado ||24 |
|4 ||Arizona ||24 |
|5 ||Illinois ||23 |
|Tied – 6 ||Oregon ||23 |
|Tied – 6 ||California ||23 |
|8 ||Georgia ||22 |
|Tied – 9 ||Washington ||22 |
|Tied – 9 ||Arkansas ||22 |
|11 ||Alaska ||21 |
|12 ||Kansas ||20 |
|Tied – 13 ||Minnesota ||20 |
|Tied – 13 ||Alabama ||20 |
|Tied – 15 ||North Carolina ||19 |
|Tied – 15 ||New York ||19 |
|Tied – 17 ||Rhode Island ||19 |
|Tied – 17 ||Hawaii ||19 |
|Tied – 17 ||Nevada ||19 |
|Tied – 20 ||Florida ||18 |
|Tied – 20 ||Maryland ||18 |
|Tied – 22 ||Louisiana ||18 |
|Tied – 22 ||Iowa ||18 |
|Tied – 22 ||Vermont ||18 |
|Tied – 22 ||Tennessee ||18 |
|Tied – 26 ||Missouri ||17 |
|Tied – 26 ||Massachusetts ||17 |
|Tied – 26 ||Utah ||17 |
|29 ||New Hampshire ||17 |
|Tied – 30 ||New Mexico ||16 |
|Tied – 30 ||West Virginia ||16 |
|Tied – 30 ||Indiana ||16 |
|Tied – 33 ||Wisconsin ||16 |
|Tied – 33 ||Nebraska ||16 |
|Tied – 35 ||Ohio ||15 |
|Tied – 35 ||North Dakota ||15 |
|Tied – 35 ||South Carolina ||15 |
|38 ||Idaho ||15 |
|Tied – 39 ||Connecticut ||14 |
|Tied – 39 ||Pennsylvania ||14 |
|Tied – 41 ||Oklahoma ||13 |
|Tied – 41 ||Michigan ||13 |
|Tied – 41 ||South Dakota ||13 |
|44 ||Montana ||13 |
|45 ||Maine ||12 |
|46 ||Wyoming ||12 |
|47 ||New Jersey ||11 |
|48 ||Kentucky ||11 |
|49 ||Texas ||10 |
|50 ||Mississippi ||10 |
Which state has the lowest speed limit?
As you’re making your way across the country, you’ve got to keep your eyes on speed limits that can range from 60 mph to 80 mph on US interstates, depending on the state.
The most common maximum posted speed limit overall in the US is 70 mph. However, seven states — Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming — allow drivers to travel at speeds of 80 mph. At the other end of the spectrum is Hawaii, at 60 mph the state with the lowest posted maximum speed limit.
Maximum posted speed limit in each state
|60 ||1 ||Hawaii |
|65 ||8 ||Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont |
|70 ||22 ||Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin |
|75 ||11 ||Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Washington |
|80 ||7 ||Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming |
States with the highest speeding fines
If you see those blue lights flashing while you’re driving above the posted speed, expect to pull the most from your wallet in Oregon with its steep $2,000 speeding fine.
Driving well above the speed limit? You could face up to six months in jail for speeding in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma and Wyoming. What to expect based on where you’re driving:
Speeding penalties by state
|Alabama ||70 ||$500 and/or 3 months |
|Alaska ||65 ||300 |
|Arizona ||75 ||$500 and/or 30 days |
|$500 and/or 6 months |
|Colorado ||75 ||100 |
|Connecticut ||65 ||90 |
|Delaware ||65 ||95 |
|Florida ||70 ||250 |
|Georgia ||70 ||500 |
|Hawaii ||60 ||500 |
|Idaho ||75; 80 on specified segments of road|
|Illinois ||70 ||$1,500 and/or 30 days |
|Iowa ||70 ||$625 and/or 30 days |
|Kansas ||75 ||500 |
|Kentucky ||65; 70 on specified segments of road ||100 |
|Louisiana ||75 ||$500 and/or 90 days |
|Maine ||75 ||500 |
|Maryland ||70 ||500 |
|Massachusetts ||65 ||The number of miles per hour over the speed limit determines the fine amount, for example:|
– Exceeding speed limit by 10 mph add $10 per mph above limit, with a minimum of $50″
|Michigan ||70 (65 trucks); 75 (65 trucks) on specified segments of road ||The number of miles per hour over the speed limit determines the fine amount |
|Minnesota ||70 ||$1,000 and/or 90 days |
|Mississippi ||70 ||$500 and/or 6 months |
|Missouri ||70 ||$1,000 and/or 6 months |
|Nebraska ||75 ||300 |
|Nevada ||80 ||$1,000 and/or 6 months |
|New Hampshire ||65; 70 on specified segments of road ||350 |
|New Jersey ||65 ||$200 and/or 15 days |
|New Mexico ||75 ||200 |
|New York ||65 ||$600 and/or 30 days |
|North Carolina ||70 ||100 |
|North Dakota ||75 ||The number of miles per hour over the speed limit determines the fine amount, for example:|
– Exceeding speed limit by 46+ mph add $5 per mph above limit plus $100″
|Ohio ||70 ||$500 and/or 60 days |
|Oklahoma ||75; 80 on specified segments of road ||$205 and/or 6 months |
|Oregon ||65; 70 on specified segments of road|
trucks: 55; 65 on specified segments of road”
|Pennsylvania ||70 ||The number of miles per hour over the speed limit determines the fine amount, for example:|
– $42.50 for exceeding 65 mph limit, plus $2 for every mph over 5 mph above limit”
|Rhode Island ||65 ||11 mph or more above the speed limit: Starting at $250 |
|South Carolina ||70 ||200 |
|South Dakota ||80 ||$500 and/or 30 days |
|Tennessee ||70 ||$50 and/or 30 days |
|Texas ||75; 80 or 85 on specified segments of road ||200 |
|Utah ||75; 80 on specified segments of road ||870 |
|Vermont ||65 ||1,000 |
|Virginia ||70 ||The number of miles per hour over the speed limit determines the fine amount, for example:|
– $6 for each mile above the speed limit; $7 in a work zone”
|Washington ||70; 75 on specified segments of road|
|West Virginia ||70 ||500 |
|Wisconsin ||70 ||300 |
|Wyoming ||75; 80 on specified segments of road ||$500 and/or 6 months |
States divided stance on traffic cameras
How likely you are to get caught speeding often is tied to whether the state you’re driving in permits the use of automated speed cameras. Across the US, only 18 states have laws on the books that allow automated speed cameras, with a further three states allowing them through city ordinances.
At the other end of the spectrum are the eight states where automated cameras are generally or completely prohibited under state law.
Another 21 states are staying out of the argument with no state or city laws about speed cameras.
Most of these states take similar stances on the use of red light cameras.
States with automated enforcement laws
|By state law ||10 ||6 |
|By state law and city ordinance ||8 ||15 |
|By city ordinance but not state law ||3 ||2 |
|No state law or city ordinance ||21 ||19 |
|Generally prohibited by state law ||1 ||1 |
|Prohibited by state law ||7 ||7 |
Which state is hardest on drunk drivers?
Oregon has some of the toughest laws regarding drunk driving in the nation. If convicted, drunk drivers face a minimum jail sentence of 2 days or 80 hours, fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,250, the suspension of their license for a minimum of one year and mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device in their cars once they’re back on the road.
Penalties for a DUI in the US vary by the chances of you winding up in jail, whether you’ll need to install an interlock device, how long you’ll lose your license and how much you’ll be out of pocket for a fine.
If you’re caught drunk driving in one of 23 states with Monopoly rules, you’re going straight to jail — do not pass go, do not collect $200. In fact, a DUI charge in Nebraska will have you going to jail for a minimum of seven days.
As far as where you have the chance of paying the most out of pocket, that title goes to Alaska, which imposes a maximum fine of $25,000 for a DUI. North Carolina has the lowest maximum fine at a paltry $200.
Twelve states force those convicted of drunk driving to install an ignition interlock device, which requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece for a breath sample in order for the car to start.
States that require an ignition device for drunk drivers
|Alabama ||Not required |
|Alaska ||Required for all drunk drivers |
|Arizona ||Required for all drunk drivers |
|Arkansas ||Required for all drunk drivers |
|California ||Required for some drunk drivers |
|Colorado ||Not required |
|Connecticut ||Not required |
|Delaware ||Not required |
|Florida ||Required for all drunk drivers |
|Georgia ||Not required |
|Hawaii ||Not required |
|Idaho ||Not required |
|Illinois ||Required for all drunk drivers |
|Indiana ||Not required |
|Iowa ||Required for some drunk drivers |
|Kansas ||Required for all drunk drivers |
|Kentucky ||Not required |
|Louisiana ||Required for some drunk drivers |
|Maine ||Not required |
|Maryland ||Not required |
|Massachusetts ||Not required |
|Michigan ||Required for some drunk drivers |
|Minnesota ||Required for all drunk drivers |
|Mississippi ||Not required |
|Missouri ||Required for some drunk drivers |
|Montana ||Required for some drunk drivers |
|Nebraska ||Not required |
|Nevada ||Required for some drunk drivers |
|New Hampshire ||Not required |
|New Jersey ||Required for some drunk drivers |
|New Mexico ||Required for all drunk drivers |
|New York ||Required for all drunk drivers |
|North Carolina ||Not required |
|North Dakota ||Not required |
|Ohio ||Not required |
|Oklahoma ||Not required |
|Oregon ||Required for all drunk drivers |
|Pennsylvania ||Required for some drunk drivers |
|Rhode Island ||Not required |
|South Carolina ||Not required |
|South Dakota ||Not required |
|Tennessee ||Required for all drunk drivers |
|Texas ||Not required |
|Utah ||Not required |
|Vermont ||Not required |
|Virginia ||Required for some drunk drivers |
|Washington ||Required for all drunk drivers |
|West Virginia ||Required for some drunk drivers |
|Wisconsin ||Not required |
|Wyoming ||Required for some drunk drivers |
What state imposes the largest reckless driving penalties?
Across the US, the average maximum fine for reckless driving is $879, with 31 states imposing a maximum fine of $0 to $999 for the first offence.
However, there are three states where you really don’t want to cop a reckless driving charge, all requiring fines of $5,000 or more: Washington, Oregon and New Hampshire. If you’re caught driving recklessly in Washington State, you could face a maximum fine of $5,000. That figure jumps to $6,250 across the border in Oregon. New Hampshire has no maximum fine for your reckless driving offense but does have a minimum of $500, and no minimum period of incarceration.
Most common maximum fines for reckless driving
|$0 – $999 ||31 |
|$1000 – $1999 ||13 |
|$2000 – $2999 ||3 |
|$3000 – $3999 ||0 |
|$4000 – $4999 ||0 |
|$5000+ ||3 |
State with shortest licensing renewal period
The average driver license renewal period in the US is every 6.8 years. However, if you live in Minnesota, you’ll need to schedule renewal every four years. Minnesota doesn’t allow license renewals online or by mail, and requires you to drag your butt into the DMV to pass a vision test at every renewal.
Residents of Arizona and Montana can go the longest without having to renew their license, with both states only requiring you to renew it every 12 years. And in Tennessee, residents can renew online or by mail with no need for a vision test.
How your driving record affects your car insurance rate
A cheap auto insurance rate can be tough if you don’t have a clean driving record. Potential car insurers consider driving infractions — from speeding tickets to drunk driving convictions — when underwriting your premiums, and if your record is less than stellar, you can generally expect to pay more for your coverage.
The easiest way to avoid your premiums going up is to keep a clean driving history. However, if you have got a ticket for speeding, running a red light or worse, all is not lost: many insurers specialize in nonstandard insurance policies for high-risk drivers.
During a cross examination of an officer in court, where do most defendants find success?
The key to any cross examination is to seek to undermine the certainty a witness expresses by finding weaknesses in their story. Since authorities are typically purporting to know the laws applicable and to have observed another who violated the law in some regard, so questioning the officer to ascertain knowledge of the relevant statutes and ordinances under which the officer took actions is critical. The officer in making the case is presumed to have been able to see the perpetrator clearly and the circumstances and surroundings where the violation occurred, so questioning the officer to determine if the officer was a careful observer is important. Observations should be unobstructed so questions to determine if a typical person could have seen clearly what the officer’s citation alleges is critical. One might ask an officer what color blouse or shirt the judge or a prosecutor is wearing. Maybe a few questions testing visual acuity by referring to some object in the courtroom or distances between objects. Again using things in plain sight in the hearing room can be an effective way of learning if the officer is observant of their surroundings.
With young people showing a higher propensity to drive recklessly do you believe raising the driving age would be beneficial? Why or why not?
Based on some research I’ve done in this area, the factors impacting young drivers are mixed. While automobiles are safer, the temptation to drive distracted with smartphones, etc. is greater than ever. Since graduated licensing programs were enacted in the 1990s, the number of young people involved in fatal crashes have been reduced. Graduated Drivers Licensing, or GDL, is a three-stage approach to granting young drivers full license privileges. Most states have some form of GDL laws in place. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of drivers age 15 to 20 involved in fatal crashes totaled 4,347 in 2011, down 48% from the 8,325 involved in 2002. The number dropped by another 1,000 to 3,255 in 2017. However, one survey found that 87% of parents think teens will obey GDL laws but that only 56% of teens think they will. Raising the minimum driving age would probably be helpful, since enforcement of GDL laws and texting while driving appears to be lacking. Interestingly, more teenagers are delaying obtaining their driver’s license later than the minimum age, so if this trend continues it might mitigate reckless driving enough to solve the problem without the need to legislated an older age requirement.
Would citizens having their own dashcams help or hurt in the long run?
I would think it would be helpful to have video proof of an accident or other adverse behavior. We are living in an age when video of disputed events are more readily available. Having a dashcam recording questionable behavior might come in handy in situations where there is not someone standing nearby with their smartphone recording the situation. I suppose if having a dashcam somehow resulted in distracted driving it could do more harm than good.
To measure the states with the strictest laws and penalties for dangerous driving, Finder collected data on speeding, reckless driving, drunk driving and license renewal laws across the 50 states using specific metrics. We gave higher scores to stricter states, which we then used to rank each state.
License renewal strictness (Total possible points: 10)
- Frequency of license renewal required (3 points)
- Proof of adequate vision required at renewal (4 points)
- Mail or online license renewal permitted (3 points)
Speeding enforcement (Total possible points: 10)
- Type of limit — absolute, basic, prima facie, mixed (2 points)
- Maximum posted speed limit (4 points)
- Auto speed enforcement permitted (2 points)
- Automated red light enforcement permitted (2 points)
Drunk driving penalties (Total possible points: 10)
- Drunk driving minimum jail time (3 points)
- Drunk driving maximum fine (3 points)
- Minimum license suspension (3 points)
- Ignition interlock device required (1 point)
Reckless driving penalties (Total possible points: 10)
- Reckless driving minimum jail time (4 points)
- Reckless driving maximum fine (4 points)
- Aggressive driving defined by law (2 points)
We sourced data on maximum posted speed limits by state from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), taking the maximum posted speed limit in miles per hour across the categories of rural interstates, urban interstates, other limited-access roads and other roads. Note that some states allow different speeds on specific segments of the highway.
The fine and jail times for drunk driving and reckless driving were for the first offense.
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