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

Another idea - make enforcement less needed in the first place. I’ve stated this in varying degrees elsewhere, but we have a huge issue in the US with roadway design and speed mismatching. That is, we design these wide, straight roads, then sign them for 25mph and wonder why people speed.

Any opportunity to use the road itself to “self-enforce” is one less instance for a police officer to have to put themselves or others in danger. If you want people to drive 25mph on a street, then you need to design the street so that people feel [psychologically] uncomfortable going faster than 25mph. If we were to have high-speed traffic on roads designed for high speeds, and low speed traffic on roads designed for low speeds, I believe we would see an order of magnitude reduction in speeding citations issued. Not to mention [surprise, surprise] an enormous decrease in roadway deaths and injuries.

Rich should pay more than the poor? I find this really troubling. The whole argument has gotten out of hand. You’re poor (maybe because you didn’t go to school or finish school or maybe for no fault of your own-whatever) so you don’t pay income taxes, get rent assistance, get food stamps, get medical insurance discounts, and on and on. Adding up the benefits, are they really poor?

Regardless, if traffic violations are a crime, and the rich should pay more, should jail sentences also be higher for a person with means? After all a 30 day sentence for a traffic violation could mean a poor person loses their meager job, but a person of means who owns their own business might be able to sustain a 6 month or one year sentence. Does this make sense to anyone? Time to just treat everyone the same regardless of checkbook balance, color, race, creed, and so on, don’t you think?


Another solution without a problem.

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In every state I’ve lived in this dweeb would have lost his license PERMANENTLY.

Equality and equity are not the same thing. An equal punishment is the same punishment regardless of other factors. An equitable punishment would be a punishment that’s different depending upon the circumstances or even some arbitrary rules. I’m a fan of equality, not necessarily equity. Equitable solutions inevitably involve having different sets of rules for different people, it can get pretty Orwellian.

That’s possible, just as it’s possible for someone to be financially literate and/or leave below their means.

In my line of work, I’m privy to information that basically that suggests the financial status or at least claimed financial status for several hundred families in the immediate area. There are more people making questionable life choices out there than there are people who were suddenly stricken with a sudden medical issue. Certainly there are some cases that are like the one you described, but the majority of the time it’s self-inflicted. As for health-care, yes I think our system is broken. Back when I was in retail a decade or two ago, I had to pay for my own health insurance and because I have a pre-existing condition, I was paying something like $1600 a month for a relatively modest health insurance plan, which was a large chunk of my paycheck obviously. It sucked, but It was what it was, and at no point did I feel it was the taxpayer’s responsibility provide health insurance for me. It also was a very motivating factor in me trying to get a better job with benefits (which I did).

Pack a lunch because this is going to be a long one, but it’s necessary because I do know where you’re coming from.

It’s also not okay that my tax money goes to projects/causes that I don’t necessarily approve of, but there’s not much I can do about that. But it is remarkably easier to avoid speeding tickets. I’ve been in that situation before. When I was 16, I spent the summer cleaning bathrooms (for min. wage) at a theme park. One late August night, I was driving home around midnight (zero traffic), and I got popped for doing 62 in a 45 MPH zone ( the speed limit went from 55 to 45 and instead of hitting the brakes I just let off the gas and started coasting down to the speed limit), The cop wrote the ticket for reckless driving, (at the time 15 over was considered reckless). I continued home and of course got yelled at. Went to court a few weeks later. I asked the judge ( whom I later learned really didn’t care for people whom she considered “good 'ol boys”) If I could get the charged reduced to speeding or improper driving provided a do driving school. She asked the officer who pulled me over if I was respectful to him, and if he would have problem with that. The cop said that I was respectful to him, and told the truth about what happened. So I’m thinking that it might not be so bad after all, but nope, the judge said that she was going to stick to the original charge and that was that. She also hit me with nearly the max fine $900 with the max being $1000. So most of the money I had saved up from my summer cleaning toilets was gone, and my insurance went way up, and I was relieved of my license for ten days. Keep in mind this was my first ticket. But wait there’s more. Fast forward six years. I’m finishing up college, my brother who is now 16 years old is in high school. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know exactly what happened but apparently in the high school parking lot, my brother someone managed to rear end a two-month old Camry with enough force that it was totaled. Luckily the the occupants of the Camry were unharmed. But this (at least in my view) was a far more dangerous and costly incident vs. what I did years prior. My brother get’s charged with reckless, and goes before the same judge. He asks the judge to reduce the charge to improper driving AND SHE GRANTS IT , no fine, just 24 hours community service, and no license for two weeks. I was livid, and had to be talked down from driving up to the court-house and demanding that she explain why she threw the proverbial book at me, but my brother, who had a much more serious incident got with less than a slap on the wrist. It was total BS. Anyway I never got an answer from her, mostly because she died suddenly about two years after that happened.


Or perhaps someone invested early and often, chose not to have children, worked in decent-paying and in-demand field, and lived below their means. The U.S. is one of the more socially mobile countries in the world.

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What you don’t seem to be getting is that an equal punishment is not the same punishment for everyone.

The point of a fine is to make people want to avoid getting fined which will influence them to avoid doing whatever they did to get fined.

If you fine a millionaire a couple hundred bucks and call it a day, then the fine was pointless because $200 is chump change to him.

Put it this way: If you fined me a buck every time I got a speeding ticket, I’d be going a lot faster than I go now. $1 to me is the same as $200 to someone who’s really rich. It is not a disincentive to repeating bad behavior.

So either we need to admit that the punitive value of the fine goes down as the offender’s income goes up and therefore equal punishment is a bad idea, or we need to consider a second option. Perhaps the fines are not intended to stop traffic violations.

I’d be with you if you chose option 2, because fines fund police stations, and why would you cut off a great source of funding by eliminating the money generator?

But at the end of the day, the justice system is not, in theory, supposed to be biased toward draining people’s wallets in order to fund itself, and if that’s what we’re doing with the traffic fines, then we need to stop entirely.


Just using the governments own numbers

You might want the read the book The Millionaire Next Door. They drive the old cars.

The punishment isn’t the same because the money doesn’t mean as much. The price (of anything) isn’t the same because it doesn’t matter as much to the wealthy. I don’t think the police or courts need to run a financial check or credit score on everyone that gets a ticket, though. In my opinion, offenders need to be dealt with accordingly. Rich or poor.

It seems somewhat obvious to me that an inequitable system of justice isn’t just. More and more local courts are administering justice that fails totally in bringing the public into compliance with the laws while it pushes some “off the grid,” so to speak and results in far too many being made criminals for no offense other than being unable to get to court as demanded and/or pay outrageous fines. Would anyone object to a mandatory 30 day confiscation of their car for a speeding fine? And of course that would include the towing and storage fees totaling many hundreds of dollars with no recourse for damages while being towed and stored.

Like I said there is a difference between equal and equitable . If you fine a guy with $100000 in the bank $1000. The fine is 1% of his wealth. If you fine a guy with $10000 in the bank $1000, then the fine is 10% of his wealth. The actual fine is equal, both people got fined the same amount of money, but the impact of the fine is not equitable because the guy with $10k in the bank is going to feel it a lot more that the guy with $100k in the bank. I totally understand the point you’re trying to make. I’m just not in favor of it, because IMHO it flies in the face of equality.

Every LEO I’ve ever met has flat out told me that most traffic violations they issue have little to do with actual safety, but they do have a lot to do with revenue collection. A person driving 85 MPH on a clear stretch of highway with little to no traffic is nowhere nearly as dangerous than a person weaving in and out of lanes and tailgating in rush hour traffic at 55 MPH. But the person doing 85 MPH is more likely to get a ticket.

Here’s a local example of a locality using speeding ticket fine to bolster the city coffers.


Heh heh. You and me and judges. I lost mine for 6 months which was the absolute max and the same judge let the pastor’s kid off scott free for a worse offense. Some years later I had the opportunity to be on the jury where the judge’s kid was now the defense lawyer. It didn’t color my decision but he was dumber than a stump and put up a very poor defense. Still, forgive me, but it made me feel good.

I understand that privileged folks that belong to the same country club can get different treatment so I just tried to become privileged from meager beginnings to even the odds a little. Sheesh that was over 50 years ago.

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Really though, when well meaning people start to go down that road, there just is no end to what can be justified. Gas tax hits poor people harder so they should pay less? They should get a discount at the grocery store? They should pay less tuition at school than everyone else-oh wait they already do-called grants. We end up developing a special privileged class of people.

I guess you missed that the author lives in Iowa, not the D.C. area.

Just do away with money fines altogether. Get caught running a red light or going 20 mph over the limit and you get a JURY DUTY SUMMONS. Equal inconvenience for rich and poor and traffic enforcement stops being a cash cow for speed trap communities.

Nope. Poor folks can lose their job and/or income for being absent. Wouldn’t have bothered me because I got paid the same for jury duty. Just never ends when you start down that road.

Heh heh, Not all goof balls live in DC. You should visit Iowa City sometime though. Not all of Iowa is the same. When you go there look up the black angel in the cemetery. Kind of interesting but don’t look at it. Legend has it there is a curse and looking at it shortens your life considerably. I don’t know if I believe that but I didn’t look at it directly anyway. While you are out there take in the Hoover Library. You have to drive though. No trains. Then you can head on down 218 to Huck Finn territory in Missouri. Lots of stuff to see.

Progressive fines based on income is a nice idea, then where do you draw the line. My income is already supporting the disadvantaged, Base gas tax based on income, as a gas tax hurts the poor more than the wealthy. Ten years after, I’d love to change the world https://youtu.be/jzrUqAtUcpU?t=12

I read what you said very carefully, and while you are correct that there is a difference between equal and equitable, that’s not what we’re debating about. You’re saying that equal fines are a good idea, and I am saying that you are wrong. :wink:

Treating everyone equitably is the way to go. Treating everyone equally only works if everyone is equal. As that isn’t the case, we need to look for equitable treatment, because equal treatment misses the mark.

That’s not just regarding speed traps, but with every aspect of life. You don’t salt the streets of Florida in the winter just because Minnesota is doing it. That would be equal, but stupid. You don’t give a dialysis patient chemotherapy just because the cancer patient in the next bed is getting it. That would be equal, but stupid.

And you don’t “punish” extremely rich people with the same fine as people below the poverty line because that is equal, but stupid. You’re not deterring speeding by rich people, and you’re criminalizing being poor by making the punishment for the same crime hurt a lot more for poor people.

Regarding your second point about LEOs enforcing traffic rules for profit, that’s even more of an argument for rich people to get bigger fines. They need the cops more, because without cops, they’d get robbed blind since they have all the good stuff. :wink:

OK, two people have used this as a weak justification for not treating people equitably. The gas tax is a user-tax. The rich guy who buys a Lamborghini is going to pay more in gas taxes than the poor guy driving a 1991 Civic. And before some wag points out that rich people buy Teslas, yes they do and in many states electric cars are subject to a yearly fee to make up for the fact that they aren’t paying any gas taxes.

One thing that annoys me is that when someone stands up and says we should treat people equitably, someone else always points to one situation where that’s not possible or practical, and then explains that because that situation exists we should treat everyone who is at a disadvantage like crap all the time.

That’s a great Gordon Gecko approach to life, but it’s not the approach that compassionate societies take. I think it’s beyond time that this country live up to its hype. We love running around talking about how we’re the greatest country on Earth, and we’re kind and generous and humanitarian, but then we utterly fail to live up to those boasts.

Inequitable speeding fines is just one small example of the hypocrisy we exhibit when we proclaim such things about ourselves. We were saying the same thing when we were enslaving people, and when we were putting American citizens of Japanese descent into prison camps. And we say it now as we eagerly deny citizenship rights to natural-born US citizens who happen to have Mexican heritage. It’d be nice to see the country take at least a baby step toward what it claims it’s already doing. Maybe we could start by not twisting the knife when a poor person commits a minor violation behind the wheel.

What’s next? I pay more for groceries or a lawnmower than my neighbor because I make more money than he does? A thing is what it is, and costs what it costs no matter who is buying it.

It may seem that being wealthy gives you an advantage over the less privileged when it comes to speeding tickets. You know what? It absolutely does. Being wealthy gives you advantages in almost every aspect of life. That’s just a fact.

I’m not wealthy. I’m a mechanic. And when I get a ticket I pay the fine. It’s as simple as that.