Welcome to DFW: Where the Speed Traps Are

Especially if you're traveling in Westlake...
Especially if you're traveling in Westlake...
Joseph Sohm

There are a handful of things (death, dismemberment, Houston) that are worse than getting a traffic ticket. That said, getting a traffic ticket sucks. A lot. In Dallas, going one mile above the posted limit can cost a driver $201.10 in fines and fees, to say nothing of the headaches of dealing with the municipal court. And, really, you never know how a traffic stop will shake out. Best to avoid them if possible.

One method is to scrupulously obey all traffic laws, which everyone should, of course, strive to do at all times. But traffic laws are complex and humans are fallible creatures, prone to making mistakes and dumb decisions, which means that it is also helpful to know where police most aggressively enforce traffic laws. For that purpose, the Observer has compiled a ranking of North Texas' most ticket-happy municipalities.

The methodology is simple. Texas' Office of Court Administration keeps all kinds of data on the state's judicial system, including month-by-month breakdowns of the number of non-parking traffic misdemeanors — i.e., traffic tickets — filed in every municipal court in the state. Taking a year's worth of traffic cases from municipal courts in North Texas' four most populous counties — Dallas, Denton, Collin and Tarrant — and dividing by total population of each city, we get the number of traffic tickets per capita.

The resulting list provides a pretty good feel for how aggressively various police departments go after speeders, though it's not perfect. After last year's list ran, a spokesman for the town of Addison wrote the Observer to quibble with our methodology; doing a simple head-count of residents without considering daytime population could skew figures for an employment hub like Addison. This also doesn't account for traffic volumes or the relative awfulness of each town's drivers. To avoid comparing a big urban department like Dallas, where cops have many responsibilities more pressing than traffic enforcement, with a small, not-so-urban place like Westlake (which actually pays to use Keller's police force), which does not. So we've split the incredibly long list of North Texas municipalities into two lists, with a population of 20,000 as the somewhat arbitrary dividing line.

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The big takeaway: If you are driving and you come to a place whose name ends in "-lake," turn around. Southlake is once again the big-city ticket capital of North Texas. Its even ritzier neighbor, Westlake, is the biggest ticket generator among the smaller cities, churning out a whopping 5.3 tickets for each of its 1,171 residents. Northlake police slacked off in 2015, seeing their ticket volume drop from a torrid 4.05 tickets per person to a paltry 1.3. One assumes that they will pick up their pace in the new year.

The other takeaway is that, all in all, North Texas police departments wrote significantly fewer traffic tickets last year (barely 1 million) than they did the year before (more than 1.2 million). That's still a lot of tickets, but just think of it as 200,000 fewer people who had to endure the misery of traffic court.

Big Cities (20,000+ Population)

City Tickets   Pop. (2014)   Tickets/Person   % change from 2013
Southlake 15476   27755   0.56   -2%
Euless 23467   52649   0.45   -6%
Farmers Branch 12977   30261   0.43   -20%
Hurst 15492   38140   0.41   -14%
Colleyville 9360   23928   0.39   -10%
Grapevine 16925   48671   0.35   -25%
Corinth 7095   20432   0.35   4%
Carrollton 42484   124501   0.34   -23%
Benbrook 7111   21234   0.33   -6%
Richardson 31264   103752   0.30   -11%
Saginaw 6100   20840   0.29   -28%
North Richland Hills 19254   65835   0.29   16%
Haltom City 11208   43259   0.26   -27%
Coppell 9977   40021   0.25   49%
Bedford 11080   46979   0.24   -27%
Arlington 82627   365438   0.23   -21%
Balch Springs 5227   23728   0.22   -61%
Denton 21755   122742   0.18   -12%
Garland 39836   232305   0.17   -12%
Irving 37270   224859   0.17   -21%
Grand Prairie 28821   181135   0.16   -44%
Fort Worth 117719   778513   0.15   -20%
Duncanville 6050   39315   0.15   -15%
University Park 3424   23761   0.14   -10%
Burleson 5195   36690   0.14   -27%
Rowlett 7952   57532   0.14   9%
Lancaster 5199   37731   0.14   17%
Allen 11413   84246   0.14   -30%
Flower Mound 8954   67630   0.13   -6%
Desoto 6602   50837   0.13   -14%
Cedar Hill 6012   46414   0.13   -10%
Mesquite 18079   142552   0.13   -35%
Frisco 15267   130499   0.12   -12%
Dallas 143149   1240985   0.12   -6%
Plano 27621   271166   0.10   -18%
McKinney 12063   144066   0.08   -25%
Sachse 1813   21790   0.08   13%
Mansfield 4823   59757   0.08   -52%
The Colony 5282   38690   0.14   -55%
Wylie 1453   43531   0.03   -5%

Small Cities (Under 20,000)

City Tickets   Pop. (2014)   Tickets/Person % change from 2013
Westlake 6225   1171   5.32 13%
Pantego 5424   2466   2.20 4%
Haslet 3180   1529   2.08 -16%
Dalworthington Gardens 3765   2077   1.81 -32%
Krugerville 2730   1603   1.70 -16%
Wilmer 6297   3779   1.67 -27%
Roanoke 9603   6488   1.48 23%
Cockrell Hill 6310   4267   1.48 -16%
Westworth Village 3643   2541   1.43 6%
Northlake 3282   2410   1.36 -57%
Copper Canyon 1462   1353   1.08 42%
Van Alstyne 3220   3101   1.04 35%
Highland Park 7321   8796   0.83 -24%
Lake Worth 3847   4671   0.82 -12%
Forest Hill 9554   12612   0.76 -8%
Argyle 2345   3282   0.71 90%
Sunnyvale 3691   5480   0.67 -31%
Double Oak 1571   2951   0.53 1%
Hutchins 2819   5410   0.52 -4%
River Oaks 3921   7575   0.52 -39%
Lake Dallas 3632   7306   0.50 -30%
Ferris 1203   2469   0.49 -39%
Aubrey 1220   2595   0.47 -22%
Bartonville 620   1469   0.42 61%
Fairview 3248   7882   0.41 -7%
Westover Hills 227   635   0.36 52%
Crowley 4377   13762   0.32 1%
Richland Hills 2495   7933   0.31 17%
Lakeside 432   1418   0.30 -40%
Lavon 712   2367   0.30 -35%
Josephine 219   791   0.28 -17%
Addison 3578   13056   0.27 -45%
Celina 1787   6558   0.27 89%
Princeton 1992   7520   0.26 -39%
Farmersville 856   3393   0.25 -33%
Parker 959   3974   0.24 164%
Azle 2619   10947   0.24 -33%
Edgecliff Village 670   2883   0.23 -2%
Krum 1029   4508   0.23 19%
White Settlement 3758   16571   0.23 -8%
Royse City 2075   9755   0.21 -10%
Blue Mound 467   2394   0.20 -77%
Prosper 2253   12503   0.18 20%
Pilot Point 691   3967   0.17 -8%
Oak Point 478   3011   0.16 -12%
Murphy 2997   19154   0.16 -1%
Glenn Heights 1509   11671   0.13 16%
Trophy Club 856   9451   0.09 -16%
Ovilla 299   3460   0.09 -34%
Seagoville 1213   15379   0.08 -33%
Highland Village 1119   15589   0.07 -17%
Anna 571   8249   0.07 11%
Everman 363   6213   0.06 -45%
Shady Shores 153   2729   0.06 -17%
Ponder 68   1536   0.04 -19%

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