Dallas recently started a red light traffic camera program. Owners of offending vehicles get a $75 citation that’s like a parking ticket:
- doesn’t go on anyone’s driving record
- easy to prosecute
- low rate of contested tickets
- no restrictions on how fine revenues should be spent
In other words, it’s a moneymaker. Dallas’s 2005-06 budget indicates $19,757,102 came from “municipal court” fines, which excludes vehicle towing and storage, parking, and library late book fines. It’s likely that the vast majority of this $19.7 million figure comes from traffic fines. Dallas expects this fine revenue to increase 60% once the red light camera program goes online. Wow!
This is ingenious for three reasons.
First, all funds go to a state account that compensates for uncovered emergency room bills. Basically, red light violators are collectively paying for the injuries they cause.
Second, why must cities profit from traffic enforcement? How much does a city haul in when prosecuting a burglar? (Nothing!) So shouldn’t traffic safety be about, gasp, safety and not profit?
Third, cities are still allowed to retain enough to pay for the camera program–as long as it doesn’t exceed 50% of the ticket revenue. Sounds fair to me!
Predictably, profit-hungry cities are upset about this legislation.