Oklahoma’s Most Notorious Speed Traps
When I travel back to my hometown, the route is generally easy. There are three exits in total along my 200-mile drive home. I hop on I-44 at Lawton, exit to I-35 in OKC, and one more time at US-60 in Northern Oklahoma. All in all, it's a piece of cake... until I near my own small little hometown.
There's a portion of US-60 near Ponca City that people swear is constantly monitored by police even though I've never seen law enforcement there in my twenty years of driving that stretch of highway. It's rumored to be a speed trap.
The limit slows to 65 MPH on a sign that's jumbled in with highway navigation signs near the Business-US-60 exit, and by the time you spot the 55 MPH sign, most people are still doing 70-75 MPH. I've never had a problem coasting into town doing 70, but my circle of hometown friends talks about it quite a bit to this day.
Speed traps are a big problem for Oklahoma drivers, and it's due largely in part by the deaths of small towns.
Life fines a way.
Like all towns in America, Oklahoma's small towns were all once in a state of boom. Some were founded and grew overnight during the seven land runs, others may have sprung up around new technology or manufacturing jobs. But as the world changed and young people now overwhelmingly seek out lives in larger cities, the majority of small communities in the state have been slowly shrinking for decades.
When the population leaves, businesses, jobs, and money leaves with them. It's a cruel cycle of life, but without revenue, towns fade slowly into an unincorporated void.
Since it only takes money to provide a municipality with survival, dying towns often turn to traffic ticketing to generate revenue and life fines a way.
What defines a speed trap?
Most people think speed trap is the term used to describe wandering or intentionally irritating speed limits. Like on OK-4 between Tuttle and Mustang where a perfectly smooth and very well-maintained section of 65 MPH highway randomly slows to 45 MPH a mile from town.
Even though plenty of drivers catch tickets there, mostly from Oklahoma Highway Patrol, it doesn't meet the definition of a "speed trap."
Speed traps aren't sections of road or highway... Speed traps are cities or towns that bolster 50% or more of their annual budgets from traffic ticketing.
Oklahoma ranks as a top 2 state.
While the headlines about the state aren't usually the most flattering across the country... Low rankings in things like health, median income, education, crime and corrections, etc... we do rank in the top 2 states for speed traps.
At the last report in 2019, Oklahoma has 14 towns that generate over 50% of their revenue from traffic ticketing. As bad as that is, 55 cities in the state draw at least 10% of their annual budgets from the practice.
Louisiana was number one in the nation with a whopping 25 cities that seem to be living citizen paycheck to citizen paycheck.
Speed traps draw a fine line.
While speed traps may be frowned upon, they're not illegal, sort of. The state has put a limit to how much revenue a city may produce from traffic ticketing. It's not supposed to be more than 50%, but it's very rarely enforced at the state level. In fact, it takes the most severe cases of traffic injustice to get the state involved at all.
Case and point... The small Northeastern Oklahoma town of Stringtown got caught filling its coffers with traffic infraction fines. 76% of their annual budget was earned by their police department in 2013.
Stringtown made so many headlines that year from their utter disregard for state law and being good stewards of mankind in general, Oklahoma disbanded its police department altogether in 2014. They've since reinstated their Chief Revenue Generators since then and Stringtown still fits the definition of a speed trap, but it's being allowed for whatever reason these days.
Where are the speed traps in Oklahoma?
Believe it or not, speed traps are a mainly Eastern Oklahoma trend. The worst stretch of road through the state is Highway 69 between Miami and Durant. It meanders through a bunch of tiny rural towns where most earn over 70% of their annual revenues from ticketing.
The worst violator seems to be the city of Kiowa, OK. The town generates 75.8% of its revenue ticketing speeders on its mile-long stretch of US-69. Upwards of a million dollars a year, which in a town of 730-ish people, that million dollars goes a long way.
How to avoid speed traps.
The best way to avoid speed traps across the state is to stay within the bounds of the law. If you're not speeding, there is no lawful reason to ticket you for it.
All the same, you could just plan your route to avoid these towns, which is far easier than it sounds. Sticking to the interstates where you can, paying closer attention to the signs along the way, asking yourself if an unexpected additional $244 expenditure is worth getting to your destination seven minutes faster...
Here's the link to the Oklahoma Speed Traps interactive map.