If you’re hoping to avoid tickets, your best bet is to drive safely. With that said, yes, there’s some evidence to indicate that vehicle choice does correlate with the likelihood of receiving a traffic ticket.
First, to dispel an old myth, red cars don’t receive a much greater proportional percentage of traffic tickets than cars of other colors. The misconception comes from the idea that drivers act more aggressively when driving red cars, or that police are more likely to notice red vehicles that commit infractions.
There’s simply no evidence to support that claim. The most recent data we have from that is from 1990, when a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times looked at 924 speeding citations in two counties. Red cars accounted for 14 percent of the total local vehicle population and about 16 percent of speeding citations.
That’s within a reasonable margin of error, so if red cars get more tickets, the difference probably isn’t substantial. That survey was limited, as it only observed two counties in Florida, but insurance statistics don’t support the idea that red cars attract cops' attention.
"There is no data to support the assertion that red cars receive more traffic tickets than cars of any other color," Carolyn Gorman, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute and Insurance Trade Association, told Edmunds. "There are no major insurance companies that consider car color when determining your rates."
That’s probably the best evidence that this is an urban myth—if red cars really affected drivers' habits, insurance companies would certainly charge more to insure them.
So, what factors actually influence traffic ticket rates? Certain car models seem more likely to be ticketed (but as we’ll discuss in a moment, correlation is not causation).
In 2010, Quality Planning, an analytics company that validates auto insurance policyholders' information, counted traffic violations for different vehicles over a one-year period. Drivers who owned a Mercedes-Benz SL-Class were four times more likely to get a violation than average.
Interestingly, the Toyota Camry came in second; Camry drivers were about 3.5 times more likely to get a violation. The rest of the vehicles toward the top of the list tended to be relatively expensive or powerful.
Granted, that’s a fairly old analysis. In 2019, insurance comparison website Insurify dug into its database to provide its own count of traffic ticketability. Per those numbers, drivers who owned a Subaru WRX were the most likely to have a speeding ticket on their records, followed closely by Scion FR-S owners and Volkswagen GTI owners.
Of course, these are one website’s numbers, so they’re not a representative sample of the entire United States driving population. Still, there were some interesting takeaways; all of the cars in the top ten had a base manufacturer suggested retail price below the average selling price of a car in June 2019, which Insurify listed as $37,285.
Remember, correlation isn’t causation. Even if Quality Planning’s numbers are correct and expensive, powerful cars are pulled over more frequently, it’s not proven whether that’s a result of the cops’ bias or those drivers being more prone to speeding.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that traffic cops are fairly active, and if you want to avoid a ticket, you need to follow the law. In a 2011 survey from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 9 percent of drivers said that they’d been pulled over for a traffic violation within the last 12 months. If that happens to you, here’s some good information to keep in mind to limit your chances of a costly violation.