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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Traffic Tickets and the Economy

Could your driving behavior help your state meet its budget shortfalls? With the US economy going down the tubes, state and local governments are looking for ways to pay for government services without raising taxes. One thing that many are looking at as a revenue source is traffic fines.

Recent news reports show that a state Senate committee approved a new bill to increase all Florida traffic fines by $10.00 and to raise some speeding fines by $25.00. For example, the fine for 15-19 miles per hour above the limit would increase from $125 to $150. The same committee also voted to end the 18% break that Florida drivers get on their traffic fines when they attend driving school. In addition to the state fines, local governments can also tack on their own fees making their cost even higher. The state of Florida anticipates raising up to $16 million to meet budget shortfalls. If approved by the full legislature, these new fines could go into effect as early as February 1st.

A quick search of news articles shows that local governments in San Jose California, Tulsa Oklahoma, and Richmond Hill Georgia have already or are considering raising traffic fines to pay for various government programs. The small community of Richmond Hill anticipates that the added fees will generate around $20,000 to pay for internet service inside their police cars. In California, speeding drivers who request a driving school to keep their insurance rates down saw that fee rise from $24 to $94 after January 1st.

Two years ago, to pay for roads and highway expenses, Virginia increased their traffic fines astronomically. In addition to traffic fines, Virginia has imposed “civil penalties” on Virginia residents who break certain traffic laws. The civil penalty for going 20 mph over the speed limit is $1,050; this is in addition to $61 in court costs and a fine of approximately $200. Violators must pay these penalties within three installments or risk suspension of their driver’s license.

The old saying goes that the only thing you can depend on in life is death and taxes but apparently some taxes can be avoided. Unlike income or property taxes that we can’t avoid paying, it is relatively easy to avoid paying these new taxes; just obey the traffic laws. Drivers who choose to disobey the traffic laws aren’t going to get a whole lot of sympathy when faced with these increased fines. And it isn’t like these are really obscure traffic laws that no one knows about. Speed limit signs are posted in clear sight. Traffic lights aren’t rocket science; you either have a green light or you don’t. So, if you are being hit hard by the economy, it doesn’t make much sense to add to the problem by choosing to break the traffic laws.

For more information on driving safety and avoiding traffic fines visit our website at

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