The Cost of Speeding

by Mike on April 5, 2010

Last summer I got my first speeding ticket. I was reaching my stride in OPERATION ELIMINATE DEBT and a few minutes of carelessness put a $100 dent in my pocket. I was furious! Not because I was caught or pulled over, but because I my lack of attention put my debt payoff behind by $100! Every time I go down that particular road now I am a little more careful. I remember the sirens behind me as if it just happened. The irony of it is I was not intentionally speeding (52 in a 45 mph zone) and was not in a hurry. I later pondered on how many people make speeding their way of life. Safety & legal issues aside for a moment, is it worth it? Let’s have some fun with math and take a closer look:

In 2003, the national average for 1-way commute to work was 24.3 minutes. For easy numbers, let’s assume a 20 minute commute at a constant 60mph. It would take 20 minutes to arrive at your destination. Now, going 10 miles over the speed limit gets you at your destination in 17 minutes…only shaving 3 minutes off your time had you gone the speed limit. If you go 15 miles above the speed limit, you get to the same 20 mile destination in 16 minutes. A 4 minute difference than going the speed limit.

According to a 2006 U.S. Census Bureau report, the average hourly pay rate $23.17 based on a 40-hour work week. That translates into $0.39/minute. The average cost of a speeding ticket is $150 (whew, guess I got lucky). Let’s assume it takes 5 minutes for a cop to write your ticket and send you on your way…that is $30/min when the average job is paying $0.39/minute! In fact, to break even and justify spending $30/minute you would have to make $1,800/hour. Clearly it’s not worth it!

The above is a very simple example and doesn’t take into account the probability of actually being pulled over among other things, but that’s not the main objective. The point is speeding does not save as much time as people think and the cost/time ratio is not proportionate enough to justify putting the petal to the metal. This also does not include the increased insurance cost that comes after speeding!

Fortunately, I was enrolled in PrePaid Legal at the time and was able to have a lawyer represent me and I didn’t face an insurance increase. If you do get busted for speeding, consider traffic school if it is an option. It may cost you a weekend and some extra cash up front, but keeping the infraction off your record will save you much more in the long run!

Aside from the risk of getting a ticket, driving the speed limit also helps your vehicle burn fuel efficiently. According to, while each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas.

The morale of the story? SLOW DOWN!

What about you? Has a lead foot ever left a hole in your pocket? Do you feel the need for speed or take the slow and steady approach?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Awareness Home Funding April 5, 2010 at 3:46 pm

While I know speeding doesn’t pay, I have not seen the breakdown before of cost incurred to the amount you try to gain by trying to save an extra 3-5 minutes. That was impactful.

2 BibleDebt April 5, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Interesting way of looking at it. You can also add in the cost of increased insurance rates for the next 3-5 years, more gas, changing the brakes more often as you are using them more to slow down, and on and on.
.-= BibleDebt´s last blog ..Top 1,000,000 Alexa Traffic Rank =-.

3 PF Journey April 5, 2010 at 1:51 pm

So true! There are all kinds of factors that can come into play!

4 Joseph | Kickdebtoff April 5, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Taking a defensive driving class is a great way to avoid insurance hike as you pointed out. But it has limits on the number of times that you can take it. I found out that i am more likely to overspeed when am running out of time. I therefore try to give myself sufficent time to travel and avoid feeling rushed.
.-= Joseph | Kickdebtoff´s last blog ..Health Insurance For Kids =-.

5 PF Journey April 5, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Thanks for pointing that out Joe! It makes sense that they would limit the amount of classes you can take.

I also tend to speed when I feel rushed, so better preparation is key! Also if I’m not paying attention to my speed, sometimes in just creeps up there….got to watch that too!

6 myfinancialobjectives April 5, 2010 at 7:53 am

Fortunately for me, speeding has not resulted in any fines or tickets as of yet (knock on wood). I speed, but not in excess, I usually just stay with traffic. Pretty interesting stats about the fuel economy. That’s good info to be aware of as gas prices are sure to rise in the upcoming summer months.
.-= myfinancialobjectives´s last blog ..Progress Report #2 =-.

7 PF Journey April 5, 2010 at 1:48 pm


Yeah, I thought the fuel economy was pretty interesting. I wonder if its more stop and go or even at a sustained speed. Maybe I’ll do some more digging

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