Study: When local revenue falls, traffic citations go up

Jan 12, 2009

Got a lead foot? Hold on to your wallet.

A new study to be published in next month's Journal of Law and Economics finds statistical evidence that local governments use traffic citations to make up for revenue shortfalls. So as the economy tanks, motorists may be more likely to see red and blue in the rearview.

Study authors Thomas Garrett, assistant vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and Gary Wagner from the University of Arkansas Little Rock, examined 14 years of revenue and traffic citation data from counties in North Carolina. They found that the number of traffic citations issued goes up the year following a revenue drop.

"Specifically, a one percentage point decrease in last year's local government revenue results in roughly a 0.32 percentage point increase in the number of traffic tickets in the following year," Garrett and Wagner write.

That number may sound small, but it's a statistically significant correlation, the authors say.

The study controlled for demographic and economic differences in the sample, which contained data from 96 North Carolina counties collected from 1990 to 2003.

The finding adds credence to something many drivers have long suspected: Safety isn't the only motive in traffic enforcement efforts. Since many municipalities retain the money generated by traffic fines, perhaps traffic enforcement also acts as a bit of a fundraiser.

"There is ample anecdotal evidence that local governments use traffic tickets as a means of generating revenue…," Garrett and Wagner write. "Our paper provides the first empirical evidence to support this view…."

And don't expect to be able to throttle up when the economy recovers. The study found no significant drop in tickets when revenues increased.

Article: Garrett, Thomas A., Gary A. Wagner, "Red Ink in the Rearview Mirror: Local Fiscal Conditions and the Issuance of Traffic Tickets," Journal of Law and Economics, 52:1, Feb. 2009

Source: University of Chicago

Explore further: Will rapprochement mean new research collaborations between Cuba and the U.S.?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Red-light cameras increase crashes, researchers find

Mar 11, 2008

Rather than improving motorist safety, red-light cameras significantly increase crashes and are a ticket to higher auto insurance premiums, researchers at the University of South Florida College of Public Health conclude. ...

Recommended for you

Study: Alcatraz inmates could have survived escape

Dec 17, 2014

The three prisoners who escaped from Alcatraz in one of the most famous and elaborate prison breaks in U.S. history could have survived and made it to land, scientists concluded in a recent study.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

bobwinners
not rated yet Jan 13, 2009
Oh, absolutely. Not only do tickets for all sorts of infractions go up, but methods of 'enhancing' revenues does too. For instance, most local court systems mail bail reminders to those ticketed. However, this isn't 'required'. So, by failing to mail that bill for your latest parking ticket, the raise the possibility of a trangressor forgetting the ticket and having to pay a higher fine.
Do respect your local governments! NOT

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.