Maybe the street was deserted and you decided to open up the throttle. Maybe a tree branch was blocking the flashing school zone sign, or you didn't notice the cop as you rolled through the stop sign.
Whatever the particulars of the situation, practically every driver knows the flush of shame -- and the paroxysm of rage at the cosmic unfairness of traffic enforcement, and the gut-punch of watching a couple hundred dollars disappear from your account -- that come with a traffic ticket.
Those who regularly travel in Southlake or Hurst, or through any number of smaller burgs like Northlake and Pantego, know better than most. Those places top Unfair Park's authoritative list of North Texas' top speed traps.
Our methodology was simple. We gathered traffic citation data from every city in Dallas, Denton, Collin, and Tarrant counties from Texas' Office of Court Administration, which compiles statistics on municipal court cases. McKinney's tally we had to get from the city. We're still waiting for Fort Worth to get back with us, which is why it's not listed.
Then we divided that number by the city's population to get the number of traffic tickets written per capita. Cities with more than 15,000 people are in one list, those with fewer in another, because there's no way Dallas, with 1.2 million people, could match tiny Northlake's torrid 3.42-tickets-per-person pace.
We didn't account for the volume of traffic in any given town, the size of the police force, the presence of red-light cameras, or any number of other variables that could inform the results. Nevertheless, it offers a glimpse of how aggressively towns approach traffic enforcement.
For larger cities, Southlake leads the pack with .73 tickets written per resident, followed by Hurst, Haltom City, Farmers Branch and Euless. Here's the full list:
Head over the page to see the stats for smaller cities in NTX, including one that's issuing 3.43 tickets per resident!
For smaller cities, Northlake, in Denton County, is first, followed by Pantego, Dalworthington Gardens, Cockrell Hill and Haslet.
What drives some cities to write so many tickets? Southlake Police Chief Stephen Mylett says that in his city, it's partly due to the low overall crime rate and partly a response to citizen demand.
"Southlake enjoys a low violent crime rate; it enjoys a low property crime rate," Police Chief Stephen Mylett tells Unfair Park. "So our officers aren't spending their time trying to identify drive-by shooters, and they're not spending their time setting up in residential areas looking for burglars."
Instead, they're keeping an eye on the roads, stopping motorists in an attempt to "modify and correct" illegal driving behavior, which is exactly what Southlake residents said they wanted in a 2011 survey of public safety priorities.
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Mylett is quick to stress that, while Southlake may issue a high number of tickets relative to the population, "officers have tremendous discretion" and that the number of drivers who get off with a warning is "at an all-time high."
"The message is not if you come into Southlake, you're gonna get a ticket," he says. It's that if you come into Southlake, you're encouraged to follow all applicable traffic laws.
Residents are happy to accept that. So idyllic is the situation in Southlake that ticketed drivers often call the police station to compliment the officer who pulled them over, Mylett says. So Southlake also tops the list for insane and/or masochistic residents.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.