Thursday, February 9, 2012

Traffic Violations Equates to Tax Revenue

Given the current economic condition of the United States, as well as most of the world, coming up with new ways to generate public revenue (i.e. taxes) has become an ever increasingly difficult task.  What we find is that the powers that be have come up with a “not so new” way of bringing in some more money for the government while saving face with the public over taxes.

It was just earlier this month that Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, announced he would not be raising taxes later this year.  This was very welcomed by the city but little did they know that the mayor had an old trick up his sleeve; by substituting tax revenue increases with traffic violations.  Fair?  Hardly most would say.

This isn’t the first time something like this has ever happened in New York City however.  In 2002 the city brought in over $380 million in parking fines alone.  This year the mayor has proposed in his budget an increase of $5 million in parking ticket revenue; compared to that of $513 million last year.  If you were to say on average a parking ticket being $80, that’s almost 6.5 million parking tickets annually.  That’s A LOT of parking tickets!  Click here to check out the full article on The New York Times website.

One main area of concern over this topic in recent years has been the installation of red light traffic cameras.  What a genius idea to put video cameras up on traffic lights to catch all the people who run red lights.  Is this an ethical way of bringing in revenue though?  Many cases have been brought to court for this reason.  It’s one thing to get caught and ticketed by a real life police officer, but to get a letter in the mail with a $100 ticket for running a red light?  Many believe this to be nothing more than a revenue generator for the government and it very well could be.

A recent study shows that while right angle collisions have been slightly reduced after the installation of red light cameras in cities, the increase in rear-end collisions has gone up significantly.  Here’s a video link to a news report done on the topic out in Las Angeles, CA.  This leads one to believe that our local government and law enforcement officials care more about revenues than public safety (Garret, 2009).  How much of that blame can really be put on the police?

Research that has been conducted on drug related asset seizures has shown that when police have the opportunity to retain assets confiscated at drug related crime scenes the fraction of drug arrests to total arrests went up by almost 20 percent.  This would also lead one to believe that the police are looking for creative ways to bring in more money, but wait; in many cases the parent governmental organization was allowed to keep a portion of the seizures (Garrett, 2009).  Looks like the government is at it again.

In conducting more research one would find that there is plenty of evidence out there that supports traffic violations and drug arrests as being nothing more than a means of generating revenue for governments and law enforcement agencies.  So next time you receive a traffic ticket or have your secret stash confiscated by the DEA, just remember you’re doing your part to help keep taxes low.


Dywer, J. (2012, Feb 2). In City Finances, a Subtle Star, Uncredited. Retrieved Feb 8,
2012 from The New York Times:

Garrett, T. A. (2009). Red Ink in the Rearview Mirror: Local Fiscal Conditions and the
Issuance of Traffic Tickets. The Journal Of Law & Economics, 5271.


  1. I have always been interested in why a lot of bigger towns have turned to red lights. It makes sense that it would bring in more revenue for the towns, but some people do think it may be unfair. Throughout time we have overcome circumstances that didn't involve technology. Society is growing and using technology to it's advantage. Parking tickets are given every where, if people would just obey the law they wouldn't have to complain. We see now even in prisons that are becoming advanced that are using more technology support rather than hiring more correctional officers. Whether it is ethical is beyond me because in reality it's for the greater good to prevent citizens from running lights and possibly causing accidents. Most would argue that police officers are lazy and don't want to make more paperwork for themselves, but I think that it is a form of both utilitarianism and Kant's views of ethics and moral values. It is for the greater good of all, but remains to be an equal consequence for everyone who doesn't obey the law even depending the situation.

  2. I think that we all have seen this trend lately with the rise in our licence plate stickers, and now the fines for traffic violations in Illinois. All in order for our government to raise more money so that they can balance their budgets. One feels that this will continue to occure intil people have had enought and speak up about it. As for the camera's at red light YES it is all about the money and the city's don't care if you are getting rearended or hurt but only to fill their pockets.