Higher Speeding Fines Keep State Heat on the Job

Graphic from cVillian.com

Your speeding fine, in Illinois and other places, is increasingly being used to fund more jobs for state police (or save them, in a time of declining budgets). Not only that, but fines are going up everywhere, and more tickets are being handed out.

How do you like being the patsy for rising deficits?

Our buddy tgriffith touched on this subject last week, but as many of you long suspected, you’re getting socked with more and higher fines if you stray as much as 5 mph over the limit—and sometimes even if you’re within it.

There are plenty of anecdotes on the Web about folks getting a ticket for no cause and either paying the fine (as about 70 percent do) or fighting it in court, which is often the wiser idea.

The accepted notion that there has long been a 5-10 mph “cushion” or leeway for those exceeding the speed limit is rapidly being abandoned in most places. It’s tough in states like Massachusetts:

Ivan Sever, 60, of Boston was stopped on the Massachusetts Turnpike for doing 55 in a 45-mph speed zone. “I had just passed into the section where the speed limit is 45,” says Sever, who teaches recording techniques at Berklee College of Music in Boston. “I saw the (trooper) and slowed down. I passed him carefully. He pulled me over, said I was doing 55.”

In Malden, Mass., a memo from the police chief told his officers: “We need to increase enforcement in areas that create revenue … write ‘ONE TAG A DAY.’”

A North Carolina study looked at the relationship between declining revenues and traffic citations from 1990 to 2003 and found (hello!) that hard times produce more tickets. And when revenues increased, citations did not drop correspondingly. Hard to give up that cash.

Pendergrass, Ga. (population 491), raked in over $558,000 in traffic fines in 2006 by whacking out-of-state drivers in a speed trap. This has nothing to do with safety; it has to do with easy money. Then there’s Canton, Oh., which saw a first-quarter 2010 increase of 221 percent in the number of tickets given out over the same period last year.

Greed camerasDrivers can do a few things about all this, but there’s no magic bullet. First, contact your state legislators if you uncover (or are a victim of) a speed trap. Legislation is the only way to fight situations like the one in Pendergrass.

Second, be very careful how you drive in unknown localities. While speed limits are going up on some major highways in Virginia, the cops in some places like Charlottesville can be very tough, as I have learned from experience.

Third, if you get a ticket, fight it in court or watch your points and insurance rates climb. There are perfectly legal ways to fight radar tickets, red-light camera tickets, and a host of unfair citations. If you study up, you can do it without a lawyer.

Of course police officers are justified in giving out traffic tickets. But they are not justified in victimizing motorists. Do you agree?

—jgoods

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