‘Worst Speed Trap City’ Lives up to Reputation

This weekly post features recent news stories that highlight and update themes previously covered throughout NMA E-Newsletters and Alerts.

Editor’s Note: NMA followers and speed trap trackers have no doubt heard of the tiny Texas town of Estelline which has the reputation as one of the most prodigious, if not the most prodigious, speed trap town in the country. This north Texas community, population 143, employs one police officer who manages to generate 90 percent of the town’s gross revenues by targeting passing motorists for predatory speed enforcement and civil forfeitures. 

The scam worked well until Estelline police officer Jason Fry pulled over Laura Dutton for speeding. Claiming he smelled marijuana, Fry searched Dutton’s vehicle and found $31,000 but no marijuana. Dutton had received the money legally, but Fry grabbed the cash and arrested Dutton for money laundering. The charges were dropped after two months, and Dutton got most of her money back. She filed a federal lawsuit against Estelline claiming the town subsisted by preying on motorists. A federal judge agreed there was enough evidence to try the case. The town then quickly settled with Dutton for $77,500. In our 2012 speed trap rankings, we dubbed Estelline the “Worst Speed Trap City” in America with a population under 50,000. 


Nationwide Poll Reveals Top U.S. and Canadian Speed Traps  

Aug. 28, 2012, Waunakee, WI — In the spirit of election season, the National Motorists Association (NMA ) has conducted its own public polling to identify the worst speed trap locations across the United States and Canada.

Speed traps typically combine arbitrarily low speed limits with heavy traffic enforcement designed to generate ticket revenue. While the intent may be to modify driver behavior long-term, that is rarely the result. Speed traps keep springing up in the same locations, the issuance of tickets flows unabated, and there is no material effect on traffic safety. That is why the NMA advocates for increased speed limits in chronic speed trap areas supported by traffic studies and proven engineering principles.

The Methodology

The NMA analyzed the most recent five years of data from its website The National Speed Trap Exchange , which lists tens of thousands of chronic speed traps in the United States and Canada and includes descriptive commentary about each listing. Since postings are generated by the public, and users vote on which locations qualify as speed traps, the rankings reflect the consensus of thousands of drivers throughout North America.

To develop the rankings, the NMA calculated the total number of affirmative votes across speed traps in a given community and then indexed the total to the community’s population size. A preliminary screening process ensured that only speed traps with high levels of consensus were factored into the rankings. 

The Results 

Worst Speed Trap Cities (population greater than 50,000): 

Rank City Affirmations/ 1,000 Residents
1 Flower Mound, Texas 8.7
2 Livonia, Michigan 8.4
3 Windsor, Ontario 3.6
4 Hamilton, Ontario 1.3
5 Mississauga, Ontario 1.1

“All of Flower Mound is a speed trap,” commented one driver on The National Speed Trap Exchange.


Worst Speed Trap Cities (population less than 50,000): 

Rank City Affirmations/ 1,000 Residents
1 Estelline, Texas 12,422
2 Winthrop, Washington 2243
3 Waldo, Florida 551
4 Bellevue, Iowa 301
5 Summersville, West Virginia 158

“There are many speed traps in Texas….this one is the worst. Tiny town, one cop, expensive police car,” said another Speed Trap Exchange user about Estelline, Texas.


Worst Speed Trap States and Provinces: 

Rank State/Province Affirmations/ 100,000 Residents
1 Ontario 92.9
2 Nova Scotia 57.7
3 District of Columbia 53.4
4 South Carolina 50.4
5 Michigan 49.6
6 Iowa 42.2
7 Tennessee 41.6
8 West Virginia 40.4
9 Washington 40.1
10 Delaware 38.8

Minnesota, Quebec and New Hampshire fared best with voters. Click here to see all state and province rankings. 


Welcome to Detroit—Now Pay Up!  

Several cities surrounding the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport deserve special mention as operators of an extraordinary cluster of speed traps. Motorists who visited The National Speed Trap Exchange within the past five years complained overwhelmingly about opportunistic law enforcement tactics in Romulus, Livonia, Allen Park, Redford, Taylor, Northville, and Dearborn Heights. They identified 187 specific locations in those seven cities, voting a staggering 6348 to 842 (88.3 percent) to affirm that each deserved the speed trap label.

To put this in perspective, let’s compare the grouping of these seven Michigan cities with the American city most comparable in population: Tampa, Florida. You would expect Tampa, as a major tourist destination, to have a heavy dose of speed traps and you would be correct. But the speed trap reporting on Tampa over the last five years pales in comparison to that of the seven cities in the Detroit metro area. Tampa’s five-year speed trap statistics per The National Speed Trap Exchange: 69 speed trap locations and a verification vote of 1133 to 316 (78.2 percent).

One wonders if law enforcement in Romulus, Livonia, Allen Park, Redford, Taylor, Northville, and Dearborn Heights regards unsuspecting visitors to the Detroit area the same way a used car salesperson views a first-time buyer.

The bottom line: If your travels take you near Detroit, or to any of the other destinations on our list, be particularly watchful of the speed trap locations identified by fellow motorists at the National Motorists Association’s National Speed Trap Exchange . It could save you from a ticket that could otherwise ruin that business trip or family visit.

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