Thursday, August 6, 2009

Traffic Tickets Bridge Revenue Gap

Anyone driving on our streets and highways recently will have noticed an abundance of law enforcement vehicles, both marked and unmarked, looking for any and all forms of traffic violations. Stepped-up enforcement of traffic signal lights, "aggressive driving" (AKA "road rage") laws, and of course, speed limits (which sometimes change by as much as 20 MPH on very short notice) are becoming the rule rather than exceptional law enforcement action. Why this beefed-up enforcement of our traffic code? One word: Revenue.

The recent economic recession has hit local governments particularly hard. With so many businesses failing or doing poorly and so many people out of work, tax revenues have taken their biggest plunge since the Great Depression (at least according to the Denver Post). Counties and municipalities are having to look to other means of raising money, and traffic tickets are a relatively easy and inexhaustive source of revenue. Law enforcement often limits concentration on traffic code violations because such action is rather unpopular with the folks who go to the polls and vote for sheriffs and on bond issues supporting law enforcement compensation. However, desperate times call for desperate measures and political leaders are willing to risk backlash at the polls in order to raise more money now. They know that most people won't bother to fight a ticket in court, simply because they can't afford to take the time from work or the attorney costs are higher than the fines. But keep in mind that traffic tickets have costs beyond the fines--insurance companies base their rates on driving records, and a handful of tickets will result in higher premiums, or in this economy, loss of coverage altogether.

Please drive safely and obey all traffic regulations...remember, they're watching!

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