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Ticket magnets and stealth mobiles

By Claes Bell ·
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Posted: 11 am ET

When I was a kid, my dad and I used to debate the merits of various fast cars. One of his top criteria was stealth -- he maintained that a fast car was no good if it advertised to law enforcement that it was likely to be traveling well north of the speed limit. When I would point out a flashy Porsche or tricked-out Japanese car, he would shake his head and say some variation of, "You'll never get to actually get to drive fast in that thing. Smokey would be all over it."

Turns out he might be right. An interesting study from Quality Planning examined which cars are most likely to get ticketed for moving violations. The top offenders on the list are a murderer's row of boy-racer favorites and fast imports.

  1. Mercedes-Benz SL Class
  2. Toyota Camry-Solara
  3. Scion TC
  4. Hummer H2/H3
  5. Scion XB
  6. CLS-63 AMG
  7. Acura Integra
  8. Pontiac Grand Prix
  9. Mercedes-Benz CLK 63 AMG
  10. Volkswagen GTI

The biggest ticket draw was the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class, pulling in 404 percent of the average number of violations, not surprising considering its Batmobile looks and available V-12 packing in excess of 600 horsepower. Four of the other top offenders were favorites of the under-30 tuner set: the Scion TC, the Scion xB, the Volkswagen GTI and the Acura Integra.

The weirdest entry on the list, at least to my eyes, was the now-discontinued Toyota Camry Solara -- not exactly a burner with its 210 hp and hefty curb weight.

On the other hand, the hand, the vehicles least likely to have been cited were a collection of SUVs, sedans and minivans prized more for hauling people than burning rubber.

  1. Buick Rainier
  2. Mazda Tribute
  3. Chevrolet C/K - 3500/2500
  4. Kia Spectra
  5. Buick Lacrosse
  6. Saturn Aura Hybrid
  7. Oldsmobile Silhouette
  8. Chevrolet Uplander
  9. Hyundai Tucson
  10. Pontiac Vibe

The interesting question to me is, was my dad right? Are these vehicles on the list because they get more attention from Johnny Law because of sporty looks or a bad reputation? Or are they on there because the people naturally predisposed to buy them are already fast drivers who get more tickets because they actually drive fast?

Despite the presence of the Solara in the "bad list," I'm more disposed to go with the latter, especially since a lot of the cars on the list were precisely the kind of stealthy fast cars my dad was talking about: the CL-63 AMG probably doesn't attract enough attention with its understated looks to get more than its fair share of tickets. On the other hand, the only people willing to pay over $130,000 for the performance a 518 horsepower V-8 offers probably try to get their money's worth in the form of high-speed driving.

What do you think of this "chicken-and-egg" question? Are police more likely to be on the lookout for some vehicles, causing them to get more moving violations? Or do lead-foot drivers pick out fast cars, and that's why those cars are more likely to get ticketed?

(h/t to Kevin Drum)

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October 22, 2010 at 11:40 am

Cops do stereotype when they look for cars to pull over. I work at a motorcycle mechanic training school, and the employees have learned not to put Wyotech bumper stickers on their cars. The local police automatically assume that you're a drag racing student, not a finance worker on the way to the office. And yes, I drive the speed limit or less to save gas.

October 21, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Interesting lists! I think that it would be hard to tease apart fast cars and fast drivers. But interesting to think about!

H. Bell
October 20, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Your Dad was right of course, take it from me.