The jig is up. One of the state’s oldest scams for generating revenue is issuing “traffic tickets” for non-crimes like “speeding” under the guise doing so keeps the road safer (of course, this is a total lie), yet for a multitude of reasons ticket revenue is plummeting across America. While Hillary Clinton called for speed limits across the U.S. to be lowered to 55 mph a few years back, a number which coincidentally maximizes revenue, states have gone the other way, raising average speed limits to around 70, and in states like Texas the limit is as high as 85. Did all this new “speeding” translate to more dangerous roads? No, in fact it’s the opposite, the roads are safer than ever, and just as important, you’re less likely to be extorted by road pirates.
Drivers appear to be catching a break from cops, who are writing fewer tickets of late. But don’t think for a second the decrease is because police have become softies all of a sudden.
The Nevada Supreme Court says it could be completely broke by May 1. The primary reason the court won’t have enough cash to operate? Not enough people are breaking the law. Or rather, not enough people are being caught breaking the law.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal recently reported that the number of traffic and parking citations has plummeted in Nevada, from 615,267 in 2010 to 484,913 last year. That’s a dip of more than 21% over five years. The state court system’s budget relies on millions of dollars in funding from such citations, so when significantly fewer tickets are issued, it can wreak havoc on the court’s ability to do its job, and even just keep the lights on.
In mid-March, Nevada Chief Justice James Hardesty raised the problem to a group of state lawmakers, asking the legislature to provide emergency funding to make up for the shortfall in citation revenues. The court’s budget is currently running $700,000 short. As for why the number of tickets issued by police has steadily declined, Hardesty doesn’t think it’s simply because a broad swath of drivers has suddenly seen the error of their ways and stopped speeding.
“With all due respect to the citizens of Nevada, I don’t think anyone is driving better,” Hardesty said to lawmakers. “I think the truth is that we’re seeing less traffic violations because law enforcement’s priorities have changed and it has changed dramatically.”
What, then, are the new priorities? The Review-Journal noted that police have put new “emphasis on violations that could cause crashes,” with citations up for drunk driving and cellphone use behind the wheel. Understaffing may be a factor as well.
In any event, the decrease in traffic citations is hardly limited to Nevada. Speeding tickets are down sharply in Wisconsin, from 294,000 convictions in 2004 to 156,000 in 2013. In Washington, D.C., police officers issued 76,832 traffic tickets last year, down from 81,161 in 2012 and 116,509 in 2010. Citations issued on interstates in Ohio are down as well, especially on busy I-70, where the monthly number of tickets is down 25%. Over in Pennsylvania, the number of tickets issued by state police was down 22% in September 2014 and 11% in October compared with the same months the year before.[…] According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there were 30,057 car crashes in which someone died on American roads in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available. That’s the second-lowest fatal car crash total ever (2011 had slightly fewer), and it marked an all-time low for the death rate per 100,000 vehicle occupants.
In this context, it makes sense why lawmakers like those in New York are proposing having citizen snitches film people committing minor traffic violation so they can be rewarded with a cut of the ticket revenue. It makes sense why Kansas police recently began ticketing people for “illegally” warming their cars, and the myriad of other such schemes police are hatching up across the nation. They’re desperate for revenue because the jig is up. I think it’s possible your average schmuck is finally realizing all these revenue generation schemes are about making the state money and not about ensuring public safety. I can’t foresee a future in which this trend reverses.
Chris runs the website InformationLiberation.com, you can read more of his writings here. Follow infolib on twitter here.