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Related topics: insurance, auto insurance, car insurance, traffic tickets, insurance rates

If you're trying to predict who will receive the most traffic tickets in a given year, take a look at the car they drive.

Quality Planning, an auto insurance analytics firm, examined a year's worth of traffic-citation data to rank cars that are most and least likely to be cited for traffic violations.

The manner in which vehicles are driven -- and the resulting violations and crashes -- affect the drivers' car insurance rates. Quality Planning's study links the appeal of certain vehicles to drivers who tend to take more risks on the road. Generally, the cars with high citation rates are widely perceived as powerful or sporty. The study was based on the number of moving violations per 100,000 miles of driving.

 
Violation-prone vehicles
MakeModelBody styleViolations per 100,000 miles driven, expressed as a percentage of averageAverage age of cited driver% cited drivers who are male
Mercedes-Benz
SL-class
Convertible
404%
53
41%
Toyota
Camry Solara
Coupe
349%
50
39%
Scion
tC
Coupe
343%
3039%
Hummer
H2/H3
SUV
292%
4673%
Scion
xB
Hatchback
270%
37
40%
Mercedes-Benz
CLS-63 AMG
Sedan
264%
46
58%
Acura
Integra
Coupe
185%
33
60%
Pontiac
Grand Prix
Sedan
182%
40
41%
Mercedes-Benz
CLK-63 AMG
Sedan
179%
47
44%
Volkswagen
GTI
Hatchback
178%
40
44%

Raj Bhat, the president of Quality Planning, calls the most-ticketed cars "spirited" vehicles. Drivers of the expensive Mercedes-Benz SL-class roadster had four times the average number of violations.

Both younger and older drivers are responsible for ticket problems. Scions, for example, are marketed to youthful drivers, and the study found that they typically are in their 30s. In contrast, the average age of the Mercedes-Benz SL-class driver is 53.

"If you tend to be not as rich, then maybe you tend toward the Scion," Bhat says. "If you look at the Toyota Camry, it looks like a bread-and-butter car, but there is a sportier version, which is the Solara. If you can afford more, you get into the Mercedes-Benz."

Car insurance rates and personal expression

Marty Brenner, an anger-management counselor based in Beverly Hills, Calif., says cars often are purchased to express aspects of the buyer's personality. If someone wants to feel powerful and important, he or she may buy an expensive, high-performance vehicle. "It's about control," he says.

Leon James, a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii, studies the motivations of drivers. He finds that many people identify strongly with their automobiles. "A lot of people get involved in their cars personally," he says. "They give their car a name. They talk to their car. They encourage their car up a hill."

Auto insurance and aggressive drivers

Aggressive drivers often purchase cars that are known for performance, James adds. In contrast, responsible drivers tend to buy what he calls "soft" cars, such as minivans or vehicles that are highly rated for safety features.

Men long have been considered more likely to have serious traffic accidents than women. However, the Quality Planning study found that not all of the cars with highest percentages of traffic violations are driven predominately by males. For the No. 1-ranked Mercedes-Benz SL-class convertible, only 41% of the drivers were male. For the second-ranked Toyota Camry Solara coupe, 39% of the drivers were male.

Loretta Worters, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute, says this trend may reflect how women increasingly are taking over roles that traditionally have been held by men.

"Women are driving more powerful cars," she notes. "In years past, men have been the most aggressive drivers, but the trend is starting to shift. There are more women on the road than there were years ago, driving in similar patterns and undergoing similar stresses as men."

Cautious drivers

Car insurance companies strive to measure risk when offering car insurance quotes to drivers. On the list of cars with low percentages of traffic violations, "the thing that stuck out was the preponderance of minivans and SUVs," Bhat says. These "cautious" cars tend to be driven by people with children, he notes.

 
Vehicles least likely to be ticketed
MakeModelBody styleViolations per 100,000 miles driven, expressed as a percentage of averageAverage age% Male drivers
Buick
Rainier
SUV
23%
61
71%
Mazda
Tribute
SUV
26%
36
29%
Chevrolet
C/K-3500/2500
Pickup
26%
40
86%
Kia
Spectra
Sedan
27%
40
44%
Buick
Lacrosse
Sedan
32%
65
50%
Saturn
Aura Hybrid
Sedan
37%
59
14%
Oldsmobile
Silhouette
Minivan
37%
41
50%
Chevrolet
Uplander
Minivan
38%
40
54%
Hyundai
Tucson
SUV
38%
47
40%
Pontiac
Vibe
SUV
39%
41
32%

Bhat says he hopes consumers will use the study results to modify their own driving behavior. While insurers take many things into consideration when setting auto insurance rates, Bhat stresses that the driver, not the car, creates dangerous situations -- and receives tickets.

"The most important message is you tend to get vehicles which fit your personality," Bhat says. "If you are buying one of these 'spirited' vehicles, be cautious. You can modify your behavior. Being cautious makes a difference."

This article was reported by Emmet Pierce for Insure.com.