'Why we can - and must - create a fairer system of traffic enforcement'

Yeah right. Take me to jail for going 59 in a 55. That makes a lot of sense. About as much sense as most of the rest of the Post. The last thing you want to do is take away the discretion from the troops on the ground. That doesn’t end well where it has been tried. The only thing I ask is when I get a ticket for 45 in a 30 at 10:00 with no one else around on my 50th birthday, that at least they wish me a happy birthday. And the argument about the poor people being discriminated against because they don’t/can’t pay their fines, is getting really old. Like everything else it is a matter of priorities.


Not really sure why you posted this. Probably to get a reaction. Well, it worked with me. This article is an equivalent of a term paper the student put off writing till the last minute. Lots of generalizations. No specific studies cited. No data. And certainly no alternatives presented, just the current system is bad.
As a proportion of traffic offenses committed, do the “poor” (poor is undefined, by the way) get pulled over more than other economic classes? And, if they do, what are some of the reasons? Very good questions to ask, but you ain’t going to get any answers from this article.
Thanks for making me think a little this morning, though!

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More men get speeding tickets than women… Men get arrested for DUI 4 times greater than women! Men are being profiled by traffic cops! Injustice! We MUST fix this!

Does that sound silly? It makes the very same argument as this little opinion piece in the WP.


By me, 20 mph over the limit on highways without aggressive and reckless changing of lanes is ok with about 98% of law enforcement officers. Just the way it is

Where you are maybe but not in my area .

I have no real complaint about how police enforce traffic violations… I don’t drive like a nut so I’ve been immune to these types of things in my driving career (knock wood)

What I DO have a problem with is the automated Red Light cams and instant tickets in the mail sort of business… I’ve gotten one or two of these Red Light Cam instant wallet raids because of traffic in front of my vehicle slowing progress thru a light… Cross the line on yellow…get delayed by an idiot in front of you…and the red light cam snaps away at you because someone else ran over the line and yet did not proceed…or some such business… In each instance I did cross the line on yellow and had a minor slow down and was then in the intersection sort of thing. I never run red lights, ever.

I have a problem with the automated systems is what I’m trying to say.

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I do think we’d be better structuring traffic fine violations the way some Nordic countries do, which is basing the dollar amount on the person’s wealth.

A $200 traffic ticket is chump change to some, and impossible to pay for others. If a millionaire gets a ticket, he pays and doesn’t even notice the money is gone. If a minimum wage recipient gets it, he has to choose between paying rent and paying the ticket.

Why should low-income drivers be penalized proportionally more than the wealthy speeder?

There’s also an argument to be made that late fees, non-payment fines, etc sound good to the obtuse but in actuality are stupid. “You can’t afford to pay this ticket and so as a result we’re going to charge you even more money.”

No one should spiral into bankruptcy because of a speeding ticket. It should hurt, but not mortally wound. The justice system is already heavily weighted in favor of the rich. Is it really necessary to keep sticking it to the poor, even when it’s a 10-over ticket?

Separately, I bet the author would enjoy Wisconsin. I don’t know if they’re still doing it because I haven’t lived there for a long time, but I got a ticket there once, and the cop wanted me to pay it right then, on the side of the road. He told me he’d arrest me if I didn’t. He ended up letting me go with a promise-to-appear after I asked him if he’d ever heard of the 6th amendment and was he really willing to stake his career and departmental budget on the notion that he wouldn’t lose the lawsuit. But I’m sure a lot of people just paid up so they wouldn’t go to jail, either because they didn’t know their constitutional rights or because they just didn’t want to deal with the hassle.

Something to keep in mind is that cops often operate under the assumption that people will just pay, and so sometimes they give out questionable tickets. I got a ticket once in Minnesota that I fought and got thrown out. At the time stationary radar required 2 seconds to lock on and verify the target’s speed. The cop dutifully noted that the radar locked after 2 seconds and had me speeding. In court, I got the cop to admit to where he was positioned, which was just after a sharp curve in the road. I then showed mathematically that in order for the radar to have 2 seconds to lock onto me between me coming around the curve, and passing the cop, I’d have had to be doing 20 under. Some cops fudge when they want to write tickets, and the success rate in getting people to just pay means they aren’t incentivized to stop.

I saw a recent video from, I think, Albuquerque. Body-cam of a cop catching a (low income) speeder, and arresting her. But there was no record of the driver’s speed because that cop didn’t have radar. The cop claimed “Well I had to do 90 to catch you so you were going really fast.”

Of course, even at 45 mph I’ll be far enough ahead of the cop by the time she turns around that she’ll have to go really fast if she wants to catch me. But this low income person went to jail, doubtless got lots of citations to justify the arrest that she’ll either have to pay for or fight, and she might have lost her job, all because a police officer decided that people who irritate her should go to jail.


Because it’s the cost of the violation. I take a different view. If you can’t afford a ticket, you should be extra diligent in not putting yourself into a position to get one. Nobody forces you to speed or run red lights etc. It’s a choice. Now deal with the consequences of your actions.


How do you know the person was 'low income?" How would the police know? Was this known at the time of the stop or later after she was arrested? Curious how that determination was made.

I was given a speeding ticket many years ago based on a “visual estimate” of the officer. These have been challenged in court and the results upheld in favor of the police. Based on the fact I was rolling almost 90 when he saw me coming the other way on a curve and the car yawed a bit when braked heavily, I can’t fault him. I got a ticket for 10 or 15 over (forget) rather than the 35 over I was actually going. So there wasn’t much argument.

Because she said on video that she’s a hairdresser, and was clearly worried about being fired which means she doesn’t own the salon. Not a whole lot of those are millionaires. :wink:

I’ve already given one example of a cop flat-out lying to write a ticket that should never have been written. That’s not unique.

That aside, the flip-side of your argument is that if you can afford it, feel free to break the law as often as you want. The idea that the rich get to break laws whenever they want simply because they have lots of money has been in the news a lot lately, and public opinion doesn’t generally tend to favor that notion.

Totally disagree, the law should apply to everyone equally. I get that a $200 fine would impact a poorer person more than a wealthy one. But I that wealthier person may have made better choices in life than the poorer person did, and shouldn’t be penalized for it.

It should be an incentive to reach a point where a $200 speeding ticket is no big deal.

That is a problem, I’m not sure what the best alternative is though. Something has to be done, you can’t just say “well you can’t pay so, I guess you get off scot-free.” But at the same time, you don’t want to take away a person’s only way to get to work either.

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Well that is a bit of a stereotype isn’t it? Plus without more data it may be wrong. Average pay for a hairdresser is $21.8K tp $32.4K a year. Low income for a single person is between $11.5K and $22.8K. Cost of living in ABQ is slightly less than the national average. And her family status is unknown, so, she may be officially low income, she may not.

And the cop didn’t know that before he pulled her over, only after.

Bottom line is very simple. Don’t break the law any more than the folks around you and you won’t create that unfortunate relationship with the legal community.


No, there are also points associated with tickets. So if you keep doing it, you lose your license privileges.

That being said, the rich have always had advantages like this. They tend to consume far more of the resources on the planet than those less fortunate. That doesn’t mean I’m willing to forego the idea of personal responsibility which has already been taken way beyond reasonable IMHO. Rather than giving breaks to “poor” people, rather we should strive to hold “rich” people accountable. That does not include higher fines just because you can afford it…

Where we live traffic enforcement by and large fair. Our main problem is that construction crews don’t remove the lower speed limit signs after the construction is finished forcing everyone to slow to 30 mph unnecessarily.

In other countries I’ve been enforcement can be totally arbitrary. A government friend was arrested in Abu Dhabi for having the temerity of passing a local Sheik driving in his Rolls Royce without even exceeding the speed limit!!! My friend was driving a lowly C Class Mercedes with diplomatic plates…

Then you should agree, because $200 isn’t much of a punishment to a millionaire, but it’s devastating to someone living in poverty.

Or maybe he inherited all his money from Daddy and because society worships people with money he’s been taught all his life that he can do whatever he wants and just throw some money at it to make the consequences go away.

Further, you’re implying that poor people are poor because of bad decisions they made. That’s certainly true in some cases, but not all. There are plenty of people out there who made all the right decisions and were responsible, middle-class adults, and then got cancer and went broke because we’ve decided that healthcare, too, is a profit center.

And now society wants to pile on to their misfortune by disproportionally punishing them when they get a speeding ticket. That’s not OK.

Funny you should mention that. I was making just barely $23k in my first job out of college, in one of the cheaper places to live in the upper midwest, more than 20 years ago. I barely managed to make ends meet. It’s expensive to be poor. You have to rent bad apartments with bad insulation and leaky windows so your heating bills are sky high even if you keep the thermostat set at 50. You can’t buy anything of quality which means you’re constantly replacing things that more well-off people don’t have to. And the $100 ticket I got for 1 over (yes, one over) hurt, a lot.

In short, the idea that $22.8 is “upper-middle-poor” is laughable real-world, and just because I’m now light years ahead of my income level back then doesn’t mean I’ve lost the ability to understand what it’s like.

I’ve now given several examples of cops being jerks in their “enforcement” activities. Sometimes you get in trouble even if you aren’t breaking the law. And by the way, a cop is much more likely to pull over the guy in the 30 year old junker than he is the guy in the brand new Lexus. Part of that, I suspect, is because he knows the guy in the junker is an easier target who probably won’t fight back and the cop won’t face any blowback from meeting his quota.

That isn’t universally true. My state does not have a points system, nor do several others. And in the states that do, it’s not uncommon for well-off defendants to get themselves a traffic lawyer and plead down to a non-moving violation to avoid earning points.

Then what would you suggest? How do we hold them accountable to a similar degree as the poor person we’re eagerly holding accountable if not by making their lawbreaking hurt just as much as it hurts the broke guy?

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Rather than fines increasing with income, why not have fines increase with number of violations? First speeding ticket is less, second ticket (within a certain time period) is more, etc.

I get the argument that a $200 fine to a millionaire is chump change. But so is the price of a good meal, or the price of a new car. That’s why people like to have a lot of money rather than be poor.

I get the impression that for many “poor” is their less preferred but more socially acceptable alternatives to “lazy” and “irresponsible.” But I once was cited for failure to come to a complete stop and went to court to contest it and found that the city traffic court was a kangaroo court that was very determined to inflict as much grief as possible on ‘outlaws’ who were ticketed for the most minor of issues. A non functioning tag light was a common offense that would cost the driver $110. Those who couldn’t immediately pay the fine in cash were scheduled to return every other week to pay $20- $25 at some time specified by the clerk. Of course it the ‘scofflaws’ work scheduled conflicted with the court’s schedule the “lazy, irresponsible” outlaw became a criminal charged with the crime of contempt of court if he didn’t show up but would likely be fired if he missed work or was late due to court…

FWIW a few weeks ago I was leaving town and realized I didn’t have my wallet and unbuckled my seat belt at traffic light to see if it had fallen out of my pocket. The light changed and I drove on to a convenient side street where I turned to look for the wallet before continuing. As soon as I turned I recognized the blue light behind me and pulled over. The officer immediately told me I should have had my seat belt buckled and when I explained what the situation was and that I had apparently left home without my wallet he advised me to immediately get it and make it a point to keep the belt buckled then went to his car and drove away. I was amazed and drove home to get the wallet and realized I had put a bumper sticker on my truck. It was then I realized the Viet Nam Veterans ribbon decal with the Eagle Globe and Anchor was on my rear bumper and I honestly can’t think of any other reason I was not cited. It’s obvious that traffic officers have a great deal of discretion and in my case I am grateful. But there are many whose past is equal or superior in merit to mine but without being somewhat universally recognized in a bumper sticker. Maybe the officer’s father was a Viet Nam veteran or possibly even his grandfather. Damn I’m getting old.

You mean like Daddy giving you $400 million?

All traffic laws are State…NOT federal. So each state would have to impose their own type of fairness.

And I think most traffic laws and enforcement will be moot when driverless vehicles become the norm.

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I have to agree with the article to some extent. In a neighboring small city I was stopped 3 times in 3 consecutive trips through there for “speeding” even though I was very careful to drive close to 5 under. In court the cop didn’t even show up and the judge found me guilty anyway. And to quote the judge; “Well, so and so is getting kind of old and he probably didn’t like your looks. Matter of fact I don’t even like your looks (long hair/beard) so you’re guilty and learn to respect the law”.

A local wealthy real estate agent who drives a Rolls freely admitted to a newspaper reporter that he drives foot on the floor all of the time. He has been ticketed countless times by the police including 40 over in an active school zone.
His response was that he was not going to quit and he had no intention of paying any ticket. It was also revealed that he never showed up to pay or contest a single one of those tickets. The citations would go before a judge in court who would automatically dismiss them even with the cops present and no sign of the defendant. It was also revealed the judge’s law firm handled some real estate transactions. No conflict there…