Motorists who exceed posted speed limits in Illinois face steep fines and increased auto insurance premiums, and repeat offenders may even have their driving privileges suspended. However, what may be a relatively minor inconvenience for affluent drivers can be a life-changing event for those who are struggling to make ends meet. This was the conclusion that a researcher from Princeton University reached after studying the financial repercussions of 4.5 million speeding tickets handed out in Florida between 2011 and 2015.

The researcher obtained the credit reports for 3.7 million of the cited drivers, and he found that a disproportionately high percentage of them lived in poor neighborhoods. Civil rights activists claim that many municipalities prioritize deprived areas for their code and traffic enforcement efforts because they often collect fees and penalties in addition to fines. The credit reports also reveal that poor drivers are more likely to encounter adverse financial events following a speeding citation.

The data suggests that targeting poor communities in this way may actually end up costing local authorities more in the long run. According to the researcher behind the study, for every dollar in traffic fines collected from poor drivers, about twice as much is spent on increased welfare benefits. The research also reveals how common speeding tickets are. The Florida drivers cited during the years studied account for almost a third of the state’s licensed motorists.

The consequences of traffic tickets are sometimes severe even for affluent drivers, but attorneys with experience in this area may challenge them in several ways. Tickets that are not completely filled out may be dismissed, and speeding citations are sometimes issued by police officers using faulty radar equipment. Judges could also frown on certain law enforcement practices such as pacing. This involves following a target vehicle and then pouncing as soon as it exceeds the posted speed limit.