The traffic enforcement in Washington, D.C., has crossed the line into predatory behavior, according to a report from AAA.
The nation’s capital raked in more than $1 billion from traffic violations in 2019. The record-breaking amount caught the attention of AAA, an insurance provider, who deemed the city’s enforcement of moving violations and parking tickets “predatory.”
“I don’t know another local jurisdiction in the entire nation that has generated as much money from traffic tickets, parking tickets, and moving violations,” John Townsend, a public relations manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic, told WJLA. “That tells us that things are out of control and out of hand in the District of Columbia.”
D.C. has the 20th largest population in the United States but managed to surpass all other cities in traffic citation revenue. Townsend said the disparity in revenue between D.C. and other cities stems from the much larger fees assessed to drivers in the city. He argued that the high fees, which were passed under the guise of safety, don’t actually make residents safer.
“We’ve looked high and low. We looked across the globe, and we have not found one major study that proves there is a link between the amount of the fine and compliance,” Townsend said.
WJLA requested records from the city to review whether the high fines resulted in fewer accidents or deaths, but city officials claimed they did not track that data.
The fines from traffic citations surpassed the combined revenue raised from taxes on alcohol, cigarettes, fuel, vehicles, licenses, permits, property, and estate taxes. Parking citations alone brought in $375 million.
Townsend said AAA would likely change the city’s ranking from “strict enforcement zone” to a “traffic trap.” He added, “It is predatory ticketing. That’s precisely what it is. And I defy the District to say otherwise.”
He also noted AAA would be revoking its support for the city’s automated enforcement program, which is a system of traffic cameras that can issue citations. Typically, the revenue from traffic cameras tapers off as more residents become aware of the location of the devices and start driving safely in the area. However, in D.C. revenue has remained steady, leaving Townsend to believe the cameras are just being used to surprise drivers and rake in revenue, rather than changing drivers’ behavior.
He said, “No one really believes this is about traffic safety any longer, which is the reason we’re withdrawing support for the automated enforcement program in the District.”
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