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States with the strictest driving laws

These are the states where you don’t want to get pulled over.

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

RankStateOverall score
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

Maximum posted speed limitNumber of statesStates
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

StateMaximum Posted Speed Limit (mph)Maximum Punishment (Fine and/or Jail Time)
Alabama 70 $500 and/or 3 months
Alaska 65 300
Arizona 75 $500 and/or 30 days
Arkansas 75
trucks: 70″
$500 and/or 6 months
California 70;
trucks: 55″
250
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
trucks: 70″
300
Illinois 70 $1,500 and/or 30 days
Indiana 70;
trucks: 65″
1,000
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
Montana 80
trucks: 70″
200
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”
2,000
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
trucks: 60″
250
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

Permission statusNumber of states allowing speed camerasNumber of states allowing red light cameras
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

StateIgnition interlock device required?
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

Maximum fines for reckless drivingNumber of states
$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.

Ask the experts

Professor Oscar Brookins headshot

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.

Dr. Tim Query headshot

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.

Methodology

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)

  1. Frequency of license renewal required (3 points)
  2. Proof of adequate vision required at renewal (4 points)
  3. Mail or online license renewal permitted (3 points)

Speeding enforcement (Total possible points: 10)

  1. Type of limit — absolute, basic, prima facie, mixed (2 points)
  2. Maximum posted speed limit (4 points)
  3. Auto speed enforcement permitted (2 points)
  4. Automated red light enforcement permitted (2 points)

Drunk driving penalties (Total possible points: 10)

  1. Drunk driving minimum jail time (3 points)
  2. Drunk driving maximum fine (3 points)
  3. Minimum license suspension (3 points)
  4. Ignition interlock device required (1 point)

Reckless driving penalties (Total possible points: 10)

  1. Reckless driving minimum jail time (4 points)
  2. Reckless driving maximum fine (4 points)
  3. 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.

Sources

Previous findings:

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