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Hard times? Expect more traffic tickets NY.

Last week we read of renewed talk about a $50 surcharge to fund increased and more efficient enforcement in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Click here for the full story.

“If you speed, you’ll get a surcharge and you’ll pay for the people who are protecting you,” Legis. Jack Eddington (WF-Medford) said.

This doesn’t sit well with me.  Isn’t law enforcement a general public expense? Where are all the surcharges and fees for every one else violating other non-driving related laws?  The general public primarily foots the bill for enforcement of our laws — why are driving offenses treated differently?

Driving is different because you can send as many officers out as you want to issue as many traffic tickets as they want on any given day.  It’s easy.  “Click it or ticket” campaigns, checkpoints, routine car stops that turn into multiple tickets, etc.  Need more money…How about a ticket blitz?  While I’ll never contend that enforcement officers issue undeserved tickets as policy, it certainly is much easier for an officer to “create” a traffic violation from a questionable set of facts and issue a summons than it would be to “create” a burglary or other crime.

We do need to admit that there is a likely correlation between the number of tickets issued and how safe our roads are.  I wrote recently about a study which confirmed this.  Click here to read more about that study.

While the statistics may set forth that enforcement and the issuance of speeding tickets, red light tickets, stop sign tickets, etc. potentially lead to safer roads, we have to beware of policy makers using statistics like these as justification for using drivers as a government piggy bank.

Car and Driver wrote an article back in February about some evidence of this in other cities.  The article set forth that in some communities, police are issuing tickets during these hard times at a rate higher than ever in what some say is an attempt to raise revenue in order to offset budget shortfalls.  In Detroit, one of the cities hit hardest by the current state of the economy, the president of a state police union isn’t pretending it doesn’t happen. James Tignanelli, president of the Police Officers Association of Michigan union, says, “When elected officials say, ‘We need more money,’ they can’t look to the department of public works to raise revenues, so where do they find it? Police departments.  Click here to read the Car and Driver story in it’s entirety.

In New York there is recent news concerning our state’s massive public pension fund—it lost more than 26 percent on its investments during a fiscal year marked by Wall Street’s meltdown.  Do we need to worry every time we read a story like this that drivers will be used to help ease the pain?

Let’s hope no one loses site of who the average person on the road is—just someone trying to drive safely from point A to point B.  Drivers as a whole should not be viewed as a bottomless pool of revenue.

Submitted by Scott Feifer

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