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Traffic Tickets Are Big Business

Posted on October 12th, 2007 in , , , | 119 Comments

Traffic Tickets Are Big Business Traffic tickets are a multi-billion industry. They have virtually nothing to do with highway safety, but they have everything to do with money.

When you begin to grasp the full magnitude of the public and private interests that depend on ripping off motorists through traffic tickets, you begin to understand why this unethical system continues to expand every year.

No one knows how many traffic tickets are actually issued. Many local units of government deliberately hide this information so they don’t have to split their traffic ticket revenue with the state. Not including parking tickets, we can estimate that somewhere between 25 and 50 million traffic tickets are issued each year. Assuming an average ticket cost of $150.00, the total up front profit from tickets ranges from 3.75 to 7.5 billion dollars.

If just half of these tickets result in insurance surcharges (typically at least $300 over a period of three years), you can add another 3.75 to 7.5 billion dollars in profit for insurance companies. This is why insurance companies “care” so much traffic “safety” programs and are willing to donate millions of dollars worth of radar and laser guns to the police. For them, it’s simple: more tickets equal more money!

Realistically, there is no connection between receiving an occasional traffic ticket and the likelihood of being in an accident. So, there is no justification for charging a person more for auto insurance because they were convicted for a random traffic violation. The purpose of insurance is to cover unusual risk. The act of exceeding an unreasonably low limit is hardly an “unusual risk.” That means speeding ticket surcharges are pure profit for the insurance industry.

In total, we’re talking about 7.5 to 15 billion dollars annually from tickets for government agencies and insurance companies. That’s more money than several states take in from all taxes! Worse still, that total doesn’t even include the money that “traffic schools,” attorneys, radar-detector manufacturers, and scanner producers make.

To keep the money coming in those that benefit from traffic ticket revenue have to do several things:

  1. Pass enough laws so that anybody can be stopped at anytime and be given a ticket for a traffic violation. Trivial or concocted traffic law violations are also frequently used as an excuse to stop, detain, and search persons for whom the police have no other legitimate reason to do so.
  2. Blow out of proportion the effects of various traffic violations. They constantly talk about “carnage” on our roads, despite the fact that we have the lowest level of traffic fatalities in history.
  3. Maintain a public relations campaign that claims traffic tickets are only given to bad drivers, and that these drivers should pay for the cost of enforcement. This is how you make it appear logical that the police and courts are funded through traffic ticket receipts.
  4. Keep the ticket prices below the pain threshold that would compel motorists to aggressively contest traffic citations in court. They know that if fines got too high, motorist would fight heir tickets, and trials eat up all the profit.
  5. Remove as many due process protections for traffic law offenders as is politically possible. This not only further discourages people from contesting their tickets, but it also ensures that those that do will have a much more difficult time defending themselves.

The police enforce laws that result in direct benefits to police agencies and personnel. Judges hear cases in which a “guilty” verdict would have tangible financially rewards for the court and courthouse personnel. No other class of “crime” is as profitable for state and local governments as is that of traffic tickets. Traffic courts cannot be fair and unbiased when their financial welfare depends on traffic fines. Additionally, local government encourage traffic enforcement practices that rip off travelers to support local government services and to reward government employees. Yet these hypocrisies go largely unnoticed.

A few simple changes can radically alter this unjust system:

  1. No court or police department should directly benefit from the collection of traffic fines.
  2. No police department should be permitted to rate its officers based on how many tickets they write.
  3. No local government should retain traffic fines. The money collected in local courts should be transferred to the state and returned via a local aid formula based on population.

Until these changes are made, you should forget the general notion that traffic tickets are fair and traffic courts are just. The entire system focuses on maximizing income. That’s why most of the people who seriously contest a traffic ticket either win or are offered an good plea bargain. They don’t want anyone “making waves“, that would cost them money. That’s yet another good reason why you should fight your traffic ticket!


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119 Responses to “Traffic Tickets Are Big Business”

  1. futurevip says:

    I received an old parking ticket, and I have decided to appeal this.I could not believe that they could do this without any prior notification to me. Please check out my blog. http://outoftheblueparkingticket.blogspot.com/

  2. Dave Winston says:

    I have three cities where I have been issued traffic tickets. I do not spend my money in these communities. Now I am only one data point but this is what happens in large scale to cities that generate money by issuing tickets. This money flows from the business of these communities and away from the economy as a whole. If everyone made it a point to stop spending money directly it would have a greater impact. I would urge everyone to make it a point to vote with your dollars against this form of taxation.

  3. [...] Originally Posted by AZSI all i can say is that a police officer already knows if your getting a ticket before he even gets to your car. all that crap about cops have to write a certain amount of tickets is bs…. Really? Arkansas: Forrest City Ticket Quota Brings in 443 Percent Increase Utah: Cop Suspended After Protesting Ticket Quota Expect More Speeding Tickets in Weak Economy WUSA9.com | Washington, DC | Recession Could Result In More Speeding Tickets Traffic Tickets Are Big Business [...]

  4. [...] and because you decided to buck the system they want to make up for the cost of your jury trial. Traffic Tickets Are Big Business Reply With Quote + Reply to ThreadChanging Traffic Citation after the [...]

  5. fargokantrowitz says:

    Amen! It is disgusting what we have allowed ourselves to do to ourselves in the name of the ruse "law and order." The fact that a court or police department makes a single dime off of traffic tickets is simply disgusting. Why do we allow this to go on? Why isn't it an issue? If we took fines and gave the money to the schools or for health care assistance our society would be a much better place. I'm tired of having the police take EVERYTHING I own (I am very poor) whenever I make a mistake on the road. I have driven 30 years without an accident. Now I have to go to traffic school and wear a dunce cap because I didn't realize something about the road. Enjoy your steaks, fellas. Enjoy your goddamned steaks…

  6. [...] information is to explain my personal experience with this ludicrous system of traffic citations. As this post from National Motorists Association puts is, “Traffic tickets are a multi-billion industry. [...]

  7. [...] to the National Motorists Association between 25 and 50 million traffic citations are issued every year, garnering a whopping $4 to $7 [...]

  8. [...] have certainly changed since William Phelps Eno first penned the original traffic laws. These days, some say that anywhere between 25 and 50 million traffic tickets are issued each year (not including parking tickets). At approximately $150 a pop, that means anywhere from $3.75 to [...]

  9. etal says:

    I very well remember when getting a ticket was not so gruelling. If you went to traffic school you did not have to pay the fine/bail. I even remember when they changed how often you can attend traffic school from 12 months to 18 months.

    Now they make you pay outrageous costs for EVERYTHING. You pay the fine/bail, the administration fees, traffic school, and the traffic school’s fees.

    Use to be a ‘fix-it’ ticket cost you nothing if you proved you made the correction. Then they began to charge to prove it. first it was $5, then $10, now it’s up to $25. The worst of these ‘fix-it’ citations is showing proof of insurance.

    I had my car in the shop. When I got it back, I did not know that my proof of insurance paper had been stolen (suspect that someone did some forgery).

    My daughter was pulled over while driving my car. She was cited for not having that piece of paper, even tho’ California DMV now requires insurance companies provide insured information to their database which is accessable to all law enforcement on the road. The officer has a reputation as a major jerk (even by his own peers) and made threats to my daughter that he could have my car towed, which would stick my 22 year old daughter and her girlfriend on the side of the road at 11:30 pm at night miles from home. Very dangerous situation to put two young ladies. I was outraged by this threat alone. Had he gone through with his threat I could have held him accountable, as well as the police department. You cannot NOT impound a vehicle for not having that piece of paper when the system says there is insurance on it. Even another officer told me that. The jerk would have been in serious trouble had he done so.

    What is unfair is that it’s going to cost $25 to show proof of the insurance. I had to get a copy of my policy which showed what time period my vehicle was insured.

    This, I believe, is another extortion tactic to steal money from the public. I have insurance on my vehicle, it’s in the system, he saw it, so the ticket was nothing short of punitive.

  10. etal says:

    In California, I know just where this traffic revenueing started – Orange County.

    It was when the Dot Com’s busted in the stock market (1990’s ?). There was a mayor in Orange County who illegally invested most of the county’s money in very riskly stock market investments, mostly in the Dot Com’s. When the Dot Com’s went bust the county lost most of it’s money. It made the papers and was nothing short of scandulous. The mayor was asked to leave office or face criminal charges. He chose to resign from office.

    Now the county was stuck with the dilemma of how to fix the problem. Their solution to recoup the money was to aggressively dole out as many traffic citations as possible. You go look at the time line; the statistics for that county compared to the surrounding ones for number of tickets issued, and put that with the published news of that time – you have your smoking gun.

    This revenueing technique was so lucradive that it spread like cancer.

  11. [...] ALWAYS take it to court. Makes them spend their money on court costs and takes away their profit. Traffic Tickets Are Big Business __________________ 2003 VW TDI Just added -> Cobra 19 DX IV CB Saves: More than I can [...]

  12. Kent says:

    I started looking for blogs on the speeding ticket issue after I received a ticket yesterday. An Oklahoma Higway Patrolman pulled me over during rush hour. I was flowing with traffic in the far left lane and had to perilously cross 4 lanes to get to the right shoulder. The shoulder was very narrow and cars were flying by. The disingenuos patrolman made all the obligatory “watch your speed” “be careful” statements. If this a-hole cared about public safety he wouldn’t be interfering with rush hour traffic and he knows it.

    Needless to say, I will make sure the county has to expend the maximum court and patrolman resources before they confiscate my money.




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