California traffic control begin in the 1920’s and accounts for a big portion of the states budget.
With over 90 percent of residents in America age 16 years or older with a license to drive, and more than one vehicle registered to each driver, there is no wonder that trillions of miles are traveled each year. All these miles traveled equate to millions of traffic violations issued each year. Traffic control is an issue of enormous proportions. There is no doubt traffic tickets are like unwelcomed gifts. Traffic tickets are suppost to be used as a deterrence but often times feel like an added tax.
Traffic tickets are teachable moments for a motorist who is unknowingly aware of a problem that they have while driving. Often times the education is ignored once a driver figures out how expensive the citation is. Traffic tickets are also a way of modifying behavior for motorists who willingly break traffic laws. Traffic tickets are costly depending on the type of violation a motorist receives. The effect of traffic tickets varies disproportionately among social and economic status which has been a huge concern for Californians in recent years.
Traffic Tickets and its Cost
A recent report on California’s outrageously priced traffic tickets, confirm residents what they already know about moving violations. Traffic violations disproportionately affect the poor, who cannot afford to fork out the monies for these alleged violations. This starts a ripple effect of consequences such as job loss, losing driver’s license, or restriction of vehicle registration. Minorities are at a disadvantage because they are more likely to be stopped by cops. Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area sheds light on the state legislature efforts to generate multiple add on fees in order to raise revenues without having to do the obvious- raising taxes.
This makes most traffic tickets feel like an informal tax imposed on drivers.
For example, the additional add on fees make a typical $100 stoplight ticket turn into a traffic ticket that costs $490, according to the LCCR’s report, Paying More for Being Poor: Bias and Disparity in California’s Traffic Court System.
In America, California is one of the top states with the highest traffic violation and infraction prices. Other states who compare are New York, Connecticut, Texas, and Wisconsin. A standard red-light ticket is three times the national average amount in California for similar citations in other states. When considering late fees and penalties California’s fines are the most expensive in the nation. The current lawmakers do not want to be viewed as unfavorable politicans for passing new taxes so they keep the revenue-generating high fines in place which unfairly affects the poor.
More Money - More Problems
California’s population consists of more low-income families than high-income families. More than any other state in the union. Conflict arrises when a lower-income motorists is citied for a violation having to choose between food for their families or paying the courts, government, and police. The California Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) reported in 2015, that over 4 million driver’s licenses were suspended for failure to appear or pay for a citation. The loss affected one in six of California drivers. The common consequence of not having a driver license resulted in loss of employment for many residents. Approximately 5.2 million positions in California involve daily driving, that unfairly affects those of color who may also be facing other issues such as discrimination.
Information obtained from scattered data on racial bias in California traffic stops shows that African-American and Latino in the counties of Sacramento, Fresno, and San Diego have a higher probability of being pulled over for a traffic stop. The traffic stops generally do not have anything to do with violating the law in certain neighborhoods but more because they are people of color. Ironically the disproportionately issuance of tickets are hurting the people who represent the largest ethnic demographic and racial group in the state. Minorities are more valuable to the state by being employed than they are without income received from these alleged traffic tickets. Predictions are clear that if California amends its policy, and refrains from suspending licenses for failure to pay, the state can generate $70 million to $140 million in additional tax revenue. Residents that are actually able to get to work, earn more money, pay more taxes and live healther better lives.
The state has acknowledge this injustice and provided a California ticket amnesty program that ended on April 30, 2017. The program provided relief for drivers allowing them to set up payment plans and get their licenses back. SB 185 called for the end of driver’s license suspension based on the inability to pay court fines which has recently passes to help aid low income drivers. Other efforts such as AB 412, brings a halt to the additional late fees that occur for those who cannot afford to pay their traffic tickets. The adversity in fines and penalties continue to be tough and expensive for those who are living life on the bare necessities. The solution is an unbiased citation system that does not place exaggerated quota requirements on officers but controls fairly through constant regulation the costs of traffic tickets in California.