Restore state ban on speed traps
Communities use traffic tickets to raise replacement revenue
The Detroit News
Setting up a speed trap is the most despicable way of taxing citizens. But communities across Metro Detroit have turned to the tactic to fill holes in their budgets.
A two-day special report in The Detroit News this week details the dramatic rise in the number of traffic tickets written in Metro Detroit during the past five years, as communities exploit a loophole in the state law that was intended to outlaw ticket quotas. At least 18 local communities have seen a rise of 50 percent or more in tickets, with some posting increases as high as nearly 500 percent.
Some cities, such as Livonia, with a 49 percent hike in tickets, cling to the pretense that the more vigorous enforcement of traffic laws is all about increasing safety, with no thought to the revenue the tickets generate for the local budget. "Our traffic officers are out there to enforce the laws because enforcing the traffic laws lowers the accident rate," insists Police Chief Robert Stevenson.
Others don't bother to hide the true intent of the ticket barrage. "Profit may not be the right word to use in government, but that's pretty much what it is," Taylor Mayor Cameron Priebe told The News, explaining that his city uses revenue generated by tickets to offset declining state aid.
The speed traps are made possible by an exception that was inserted into the Motor Vehicle Code in 1988 allowing the number of tickets an officer writes to be used in his or her performance evaluation. Previously, ticket quotas were banned by state law.
As state revenue-sharing to communities began declining at the start of this decade, the number of tickets written began climbing.
But a ticket is a very punishing way to squeeze money out of taxpayers. Besides the one-time cost of the fine, tickets also can raise annual insurance rates. And Michigan's absurd driver responsibility law requires in many cases that the fines for the same ticket be paid two years in a row.
This shake-down of motorists must stop. It's not fair, and it makes the communities that engage in the practice far less attractive places to live and visit.
The Legislature should close the loop-hole and put an end to the scheme of using traffic tickets to fatten local coffers.
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