California ranks number 4 in the U.S. for issuing the most traffic tickets. California ranks 5th in the nation of the worst states to get a ticket. California adds on so many fees and fines that a $35 traffic ticket will ultimately cost $158 after all of the fees have been assessed.
That doesn’t include the hike in your insurance. You’re likely asking yourself how this is even possible. All these figures are not made up but are factual figures.
Unfortunately, for many lower income residents of California, this is not only possible, but it’s costing them money they don’t have and even the loss of their license.
California’s Traffic Ticket Crisis
According to statistics cited in a bill proposed by State Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), 4.2 million California drivers have had their license suspended due to their failure to pay traffic fees. This number of 4.2 million occurred over 8 years. So far, only 71,000 have had their licenses reinstated.
- Studies show that 42% of people who lose their licenses also lose their jobs.
- Hertzberg claims that local municipalities not only set up speed traps, but also tack on additional fees for otherwise minor violations in an effort to recoup revenue lost during the recession.
- Between the unaffordable fines and the loss of their income, drivers are sentenced to a life of deep poverty.
Legislation is Working on Amnesty Program
The proposed legislation would offer suspended drivers the opportunity to have their driving privileges reinstated as long as their offenses were minor and nonviolent (expired tags, broken taillights, etc.) and they agree to pay their fees in full. The legislation would also work to reduce fines by 50% over the course of 18 months by matching those in need with an amnesty program being proposed by Governor Jerry Brown.
- Hertzberg claims that by reducing the fines, drivers will be more likely to pay. Under the current system, the uncollected debt amount has reached a staggering $10 billion!
- He believes that by making it easier for drivers to pay, the state will be able to collect more money than if they did nothing.
- The proposal suggests using a portion of the money collected to provide training for law enforcement.
Opponents Does Not Agree to The Amnesty Program
Opponents of the bill claim that a reduction in fines and a general amnesty program will actually encourage drivers to not pay their fines and that the amount they can collect will not be enough to fund the proposed training.
- It’s clear, regardless of the amount collected, that something needs to change.
- The existing law makes it nearly impossible to have a suspended license reinstated until all fees and fines are paid.
- In many areas, drivers are not even allowed to go before a judge to plead their case until all fines are paid in full.
Hertzberg maintains that the current system is a no win for Californians, especially those already living in poverty. According to the study cited in Hertzberg’s bill, 75% of drivers who have their licenses suspended actually continue to drive, often times without insurance, which simply raises a public safety concern beyond than the minor traffic violation that lead to the suspended license in the first place.
Given that drivers are only allowed to request consideration of their inability to pay, after they’ve already paid pre-court fees means that many suspended drivers will continue to struggle and fall deeper into poverty under the current law. Hertzberg claims he is only looking for a common sense fix to remarkably broken system.
Allowing people to keep their licenses after minor traffic offenses will allow them to keep their jobs and encourage economic growth. Removing their ability to get to work until they pay a fine is a short sighted way for local jurisdictions to try to recover their own economic losses.
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