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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Study Finds Out Of State Drivers More Likely To Get Tickets

A study released earlier this year by researchers at George Mason University finds evidence that out-of-state drivers are more likely to receive speeding tickets than local drivers. Economics Professor Thomas Stratmann and PhD candidate Michael Makowsky examined every traffic stop in the state of Massachusetts over a two month period in 2001 to identify the demographic criteria most likely to result in an expensive citation as opposed to a simple warning. Makowsky came up with the idea for the study after receiving a ticket in the Bay State.

"I was pulled over amongst a throng of other speeding cars, and stopped to think how I was different from the other drivers," Makowsky said. "The first thing I thought of was my Virginia license plate."

The data showed that, overall, any motorist who is stopped had a 46 percent of receiving a ticket with an average cost of $122. The chance of being ticketed jumped an additional 51 percent for those holding an out-of-state license. They also received larger fines. Hispanics were least likely to catch a break while young females enjoyed the greatest chance of getting off with just a warning.

The study found that the decisions by officers on the side of the road on whether to issue a citation were not made in a vacuum. The data showed a direct correlation between per capita police budgets and the amount of traffic fines collected. More tickets brought a bigger budget, and when the budget increased police salaries increased in a direct proportion. The researchers explained how the budgetary incentives of local politicians reached the level of the officer on the street.

"A police officer is generally disinclined to issue a ticket because it requires work without immediate personal benefit," the report stated. "The chief, however, is monitoring her work, evaluating her with regards to the number of traffic stops and issued fines, and how many drivers eventually pay their fines (as opposed to having the fine successfully overturned in court)... The amount of work effort associated with a citation issuance depends on the probability that a driver will appeal the ticket to a judge.... Whether a driver appeals a ticket depends on the expected cost and benefit. The expected cost includes the time and effort of going to court, which is a function of the distance from the driver's home to the assigned district courthouse."

Political representatives face pressure to keep taxes low while increasing the amount of revenue collected to improve city services. For this reason, the ideal source of this revenue turns out to be the non-voter -- a motorist from out-of-state or a different town. This effect was found to be limited only in the towns that depend on tourism revenue. In all cases, the police chief ensures compliance with the political needs by promoting and giving raises to the officers that best achieve the political goals.

"Police officers will find their incentives in alignment with revenue maximizing politicians if more traffic fines lead to a larger police budget," the report stated. "Police officers benefit from a larger budget through higher salaries and amenities."

The George Mason University findings match those of a Federal Reserve study that found the number of traffic tickets rises as city incomes fall.

Source - - George Mason University Study

Monday, July 16, 2007

Traffic Cameras Go Live in Chattanooga

If you live in, or are planning on traveling through Chattanooga Tennessee, be forewarned that you can now be caught on camera and filmed if you go through a red light or speed. Also known as "photo enforcement" there will be no more warnings for drivers so proceed carefully through Chattanooga. Read the story from WDEF-news.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ticket Fixing Case In Illinois Delayed

Case involving local official and a courthouse employee of accused of fixing tickets gets postponed, read the story in the Joliet Herald News.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Do Red Light Cameras Reduce Accidents?

The continuing growth and use of red light cameras by local law enforcement is causing much debate across the US. But according to this story from WFTV-9 in Florida an intersection in Orange County Florida has been found to have a high incidence of accidents and the county wants to fine the red light runner to decrease the risk.

But some research has shown that red light cameras do not cut down on the incidence of traffic accidents, but may actually slightly up the risk. This extensive report by the Virginia Dept. of Transportation shows the findings of their research and its not all good.

What are your thoughts on red light cameras? Do they cause you to slow down and decrease your likelihood of running a red light?