If you’re planning to squeeze in one last road trip before the summer ends, there are a few hot spots in Texas where you might want to slow down.
Especially if you’re planning on a trip to South Padre Island.
Two of the Texas counties where Texas Department of Public Safety troopers write the most tickets are on the state’s southern tip, Hidalgo and Cameron, which are on the Texas Gulf Coast. Harris County (Houston) also has a bunch.
Closer to home, there’s a better chance of getting a ticket from a DPS trooper in Parker or Collin counties than Tarrant or Dallas, according to a Star-Telegram analysis of Texas Department of Public Safety data from 2012 through 2016.
Parker County ranked No. 9 on the list with 26,506 tickets, and Collin County is No. 10 with 26,431. Dallas is No. 13 at 13,714 and Tarrant County ranks No. 48 with 9,674.
Other North Texas counties include: Wise 22,844; Denton 21,262; and Johnson 13,732.
“People die and are seriously injured every day in senseless, preventable vehicle crashes — all because someone chose to drive irresponsibly, including speeding,” said Tom Vinger, a DPS spokesman. “We are unapologetic about our Troopers’ efforts to enforce all laws in every area of the state, and we’re proud of the critical role they play in keeping our roadways safe for everyone.”
Across Texas, more than 1.6 million speeding tickets were issued by troopers in the past five years.
“Texas is busting at the seams, and anyone who’s driven on Texas streets knows more drivers means more speeders,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.
Suburbs, rural areas
DPS officials stress that their data doesn’t represent all the speeding tickets issued in Texas.
Troopers generally don’t focus on traffic enforcement in cities such as Fort Worth, Dallas, Austin or Houston that have police forces doing the same thing.
That leaves them working, for the most part, in suburban and rural areas, such as Parker County.
“DPS is picking up the slack in some border counties where local police and sheriffs offices are overworked or understaffed,” Rottinghaus said. “The surge of DPS troopers in these counties may be reflected in increasing moving violations.”
In Tarrant County, much of the DPS traffic control work focuses on the stretch of Chisholm Trail Parkway that is outside the Fort Worth city limits.
There are about 2,660 troopers across the state.
Top 10 counties for speeding tickets
The Star-Telegram reviewed DPS data showing tickets issued county by county in Texas between 2012 and 2016. Click on markers for more details.
The review of data shows that the number of speeding tickets issued by state troopers appeared to be going down, from 394,249 in 2012 to 291,441 in 2015.
Then in 2016, the number of tickets issued rose to 317,443.
Some suggest the numbers may have gone up because of increased border enforcement.
“Through traffic enforcement, troopers routinely arrest drunk drivers; seize illegal drugs and weapons before they make it into our communities; arrest wanted fugitives; rescue endangered children during routine traffic stops; help stranded motorists; and provide lifesaving aid to those in need,” Vinger said.
Other interesting facts:
▪ Speeding tickets were issued in every one of the state’s 254 counties during the past five years.
▪ Loving County — the least populated county in Texas at 113 last year — saw the fewest tickets issued: eight over the past five years.
Now, public safety officials have some advice for Texas drivers.
“We always tell people to slow down, buckle up and don’t have anything to drink and drive,” said Lonnie Haschel, a local DPS spokesman.
Texas has a reputation as a law-and-order state, but a data analysis shows it's actually more lenient than any other state when it comes to speeding and reckless driving.
What to do if you’re stopped?
Move the vehicle safely to the right of the road as soon as possible and stop.
Place the vehicle in a parking position, set the emergency brake, turn the engine off, and activate the hazard warning lights.
Remain in the car, lower the driver’s window, and wait for the law enforcement officer to give instructions.
Follow the instructions of the law enforcement officer.
Passengers are required to remain in the car unless other instructions are given by the officer.
Drivers must give the appropriate signals and safely return to the proper lane of traffic when released by the officer.
Texas top 10
A look at the top 10 counties where tickets were issued by state troopers:
1. Hidalgo, 58,669; 2. Harris, 46,082; 3. Cameron, 42,846; 4. Montgomery, 42,447; 5. Brazoria, 37,811;
6. Williamson, 31,213; 7. Bell, 30,597; 8. Fort Bend, 26,630; 9. Parker, 26,506; and 10. Collin, 26,431.