Washington, D.C. has long been known for earning some of the highest amounts of revenue from traffic and parking fines in the nation but recently the District reached shocking new territory by issuing more than $1 billion in tickets in just three years.
Nearly three million motorists were on the receiving end of traffic and parking citations last year, totaling $375 million.
John Townsend, Public Relations Manager of AAA Mid-Atlantic, commented on the massive revenue earnings saying, “I don’t know another local jurisdiction in the entire nation that has generated as much money from traffic tickets, parking tickets and moving violations. That tells us that things are out of control and out of hand in the District of Columbia.”
Townsend has been closely monitoring the District’s ticketing behavior and he says they haven’t found any evidence that shows the amount of the fine modifies a motorist’s behavior.
“We’ve looked high and low,” said Townsend. “We looked across the globe and we have not found one major study that proves there is a link between the amount of the fine and compliance.”
Despite the fact that higher fines are not proven to change driver’s behavior, fines in D.C. keep increasing. Traffic and parking violations generated more money than alcohol, cigarette, motor vehicle, fuel, and estate taxes and all revenue from licenses and permits, and personal property taxes combined.
A study that compared the nation’s 25 largest metro areas showed that D.C. has the highest traffic fines per capita by far at $170 per person, the next closest was Chicago at $101.
“It is predatory ticketing,” said Townsend. “That’s precisely what it is. And I defy the District to say otherwise.”
Townsend says D.C. no longer plays by the rules, causing AAA to move toward drastic action.
“No one really believes this is about traffic safety any longer,” said Townsend, “which is the reason we’re withdrawing support for the automated enforcement program in the District.”
That means AAA is likely to declare Washington, D.C. a “traffic trap” to its 60 million members. In 2005 AAA declared D.C. a “strict enforcement zone,” one step below the “traffic trap” designation.