Mind over matter: Are you thinking yourself into getting a ticket?
Do you often suspect a traffic cop will be around every bend, waiting to clock your speed and issue you a ticket? Studies show that the type of car you drive can mess with your head, making you feel as if you have a bull’s-eye on your car.
“If you pay a lot of attention to your car, chances are you think others will too — especially if what you pay for the car stirs up any emotions,” says Sylvia Gearing, a clinical and media psychologist in Dallas.
According to a LeaseTrader.com survey, a car’s price and status affect how drivers feel about their chances of getting stopped for a traffic violation. However, what drivers think will happen isn’t always what plays out on the road.
|Drivers of economy cars may think they can fly under the radar. In reality, however, their unassuming cars are some of the most ticketed on the road.|
Quality Planning, a company that validates policyholder information for auto insurers, conducted a study in 2009 of the most-ticketed vehicles on the road. Violations included acts like speeding, running red lights and illegal lane changes.
Here’s a look at some of the study’s results and how those results measure up to drivers’ expectations.
This class was the big “winner,” with four models — the most of any class — in the Top 10 most-ticketed vehicles. Ironically, economy car drivers think they’re the least likely to be pulled over or handed a ticket. Just 28.2 percent of them think that they’ll get pulled over for going 10 mph above the speed limit, according to LeaseTrader.
The biggest offenders, according to Quality Planning:
Scion XB Station
The reasoning: Gearing says affordability gives economy class drivers a false sense of security.
“These drivers often have the sense that since they exercised financial responsibility buying a car with a smaller carbon footprint, or one that’s easy on their wallets, they’re going to be judged as responsible overall,” she says.
Moreover, Gearing says, economy car drivers might think their traffic violations will go unnoticed — like their cars.
“Economy cars also enjoy a certain anonymity,” Gearing says. “They blend into the sea of cars around them, so drivers get the sense that they’re less likely to draw the attention or concern of traffic cops.”
Coming in second place, luxury cars had three models in the Top 10. Unlike economy car drivers, luxury car drivers expect their rides to be ticket magnets, even though they’re not as ticketed as some of the economy models. For example, 63.2 percent of luxury car drivers feel they will get a ticket for driving 10 mph over the speed limit, according to LeaseTrader.
The biggest offenders:
Mercedes Benz CLK63
Mercedes Benz CLS63
The reasoning: People with expensive cars might think they’re more likely to be noticed because their vehicles are the object of envy and excess attention, says Judy Belmont, a psychotherapist and co-author of “The Swiss Cheese Theory of Life.”
“These drivers may expect police officers to have a ‘life is not fair; get used to it’ mentality, so they’re less likely to let the driver go with a warning,” she says.
Adds Gearing: “Drivers of luxury cars experience guilt for driving something flashy or lavish, especially if the car is a gas-guzzler, so they automatically assume others — like cops — will think them guilty of doing something wrong.”
Drivers of mid-size cars represent the middle ground — they attract a fair amount of tickets, and they fall in between economy and luxury car drivers as far as expectations go. According to LeaseTrader, 45 percent of drivers with mid-size cars expect to be ticketed for driving 10 mph over the limit.
The biggest offenders:
Subaru Outback Wagon
The reasoning: Mid-size cars might have a case of the classic “middle child” blues, Gearing says.
“You’re torn between wanting to be bigger and more luxurious, and wanting to be economical and responsible,” she says. “So you flip-flop on thinking you’re safe versus thinking you’re a moving ticket target.”
SUVs and trucks
This class does include the most-ticketed vehicles on the road among all classes — the Hummer H2 and H3, which attract more than four-and-a-half times the average number of tickets, according to Quality Planning. But in general, the SUV/truck class manages to be the most successful in staying off police radars.
Despite their cars’ size, many SUV and truck drivers expect to fly under the radar for some infractions — but not all. They are the most likely out of all groups to think they’ll get busted for parking illegally, according to LeaseTrader.
The biggest offender:
The reasoning: It turns out size does matter. The bigger the vehicle, the bigger the target it becomes in the eyes of the driver, Belmont says.
“Driving an extended cab pickup truck, versus a small economy car, creates the illusion that the truck will be easier for a cop to spot,” she says.
No matter the scenario, the obvious way to avoid a traffic ticket — and auto insurance premium rate hikes — is to drive safely.
“That will give you peace of mind on the road too,” Belmont says.