Budget Deficits and Speeding Tickets
The Post-Dispatch had a great story yesterday about a recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis that documented an increase in traffic tickets during times of government budget deficits. While study’s data came from North Carolina, the factors involved apply in Missouri just as well. If anything, they apply even more so, because everyone knows how common the practice of amending speeding tickets is in Missouri. This makes issuing more tickets even more profitable to Missouri governments, without any noticeable increases in insurance rates or driver’s license points.
While speeding tickets, and citations for other violations, should only be issued to enforce traffic and safety rules, everyone knows that they are used for other purposes. Generally, in small cities, towns, and suburbs, they are used for enhancing local revenue, as the study proves. However, we all know that they are also used to keep some people out of certain areas, such as the well-known “DWB” violation.
My dearly departed friend Sherman Parker relayed a few stories about how he would attempt to tell his bosses — senators and congressmen — about the problems his white friends would have with the cops when they would try to visit his house in North St. Louis. Of course, Sherman would be crying, he was laughing so hard, when he would relay these issues to them — as we all basically found it hysterical. (“Get rid of those fireworks” was a parting line I remember from a cop, after a team of them had searched my car up and down for drugs after I dropped Sherman off one night. Although, in that particular case, I had accidentally made an illegal turn, so the pull-over was completely legit.)
Sure, it’s funny when it’s white kids from the suburbs who don’t have drugs on them getting hassled a few times for a few minutes, and then being let go when the officers realize the car is clean and the person (me) really is just visiting a friend. But it’s not funny when it happens to people often, or when there is absolutely no legitimacy to the pull-over, or when the ticket is issued solely to raise money for the city, as is the case with red light cameras.
Missouri should lower the maximum percentage that any one government can receive from traffic violations, down from the current 50 percent (I think that’s the number, and it is a good thing we have that cap there at all) to about 10 percent. There is no excuse for filling budget deficits with traffic fines, no matter how many times you amend the tickets to muffler violations.