The following information is updated periodically. However, laws and regulations can change between updates. State statutes and local ordinances are the ultimate authorities for these issues.
HOW TO BEAT A SPEEDING TICKET
"Referring to bicycling and walking as 'alternative' transportation is like calling women alternative men."
THE FLEECING OF MASSACHUSETTS MOTORISTS TIMELINE:
("Car drivers, about one step above cigarette smokers on the politically correct food chain, are fast becoming known as the 'ATM of the State...'")
Starting 7/14: non-commercial vehicle registration fees for motor vehicles will increase from $50 to $60. Your annual motor vehicle inspection will increase to $35, up from $29. The road test fee will also increase to $35, up from $20. (The lines at the Registry will not change.) The new fee structure will generate approximately $55 million to $63 million.
3/12: Is the recent increase in speed-limit enforcement by the State Police on our roads due to a rash of new accidents on the highways? Or maybe it's a new safety campaign, this time truthfully called "You are speedy and we're so greedy..." But the answer is neither. The reason is there are now 208 new state troopers who have to spend three years doing traffic duty before they can move on to real work. So please be on the lookout for them, because they are on the lookout for you.
9/11: The wait is over. The 'impartial' judges paid by the state ruled there is nothing wrong with the state charging you a non-refundable fee for a hearing in front of other judges paid by the same state. Of course you realize, when a police officer accuses you of violating a traffic law it's only about safety and for your own good, right?
9/11: New Hampshire is moving to a system where drivers will have to show up twice instead of once to fight traffic tickets. Instead of pleading not guilty by mail and getting a trial date, you'll go to a hearing in person to get a trial date. This will save N.H. money because neither police nor judges will need to attend the initial hearing.
9/11: Remember the Big Dig, those 3.5 miles that cost three times as much to dig as the Panama Canal that's fourteen times longer? Under its new the administrator, it was revealed the tunnel now has a $100 million a year maintenance budget, mostly to shore up collapsing walls, strap on falling fixtures and to constantly re-examine and then inject with grout several persistent leaks.
7/11: The Massachusetts Supreme Court of Appeals ruled it just couldn't find anything wrong with a town charging residents $275 to appeal a $8 parking ticket...
3/11: NMA is helping two people fight different fees for the "privilege" of defending yourself in court when accused of violating a traffic law.
9/10: Back in August, Channel 5 Chronicle filmed a segment with me. The point I was making on camera was that speed limits - an engineering decision - turned into a political issue instead. (Why else would a speed limit change at a state border?) Last week the station decided not to air my segment. Doesn't that prove my point?
9/10:Cambridge, MA Parking Office has an artist-in-residence (did you know there was such a job in the Parking Office?), who designed a series of yoga postures for giving and receiving parking citations. So now you'll be happy to get your ticket...
4/10: In some time now I haven't written about the poor insurance companies struggling to make a profit in the state. Well, while some investment advisors said Liberty Mutual did not need any aid at all, Liberty got a $22.5 million tax break from the state, $4.5 million more than it was entitled to. Oh well, in hard economic times, what's a couple of million taxpayers' dollars between friends...
3/10: Globe reported the state budgeted $2 million for police details at the BU Bridge, but after questions from the Globe, they said the cost would be closer to $850,000. Oopsie daisy; just a little 57.5% "oversight..."
2/10: Speeding tax in place? Check. Non-refundable fee to fight a traffic citation imposed? Yes. Let's see: how else can we squeeze money out of the motoring public? Well, the vehicle inspection fees haven't changed in over 10 years... Good, then let's increase them by $6 to $35, with proceeds from this more than 20 percent hike dedicated to municipal police training. Phew, that was an easy $27 million. Isn't cutting government expenses fun?
12/09: State Rep. Katherine Clark, Melrose, and state Sen. Thomas McGee, D-Lynn proudly announced Gov. Patrick signed a bill authorizing the City of Melrose to establish traffic safety zones. The problem is this act is in direct violation of federal guidelines, putting the whole federal highway funding for Massachusetts in jeopardy. Way to go, guys!
10/09: After receiving $10,245 from photo enforcement firms, Governor Patrick with some lawmakers started pushing for red light cameras. (Introduction of this legislation as part of the budget process is a sign that Patrick's primary concern is monetary.) Meanwhile LA became the latest city where accidents have gone up because of the red light cameras. Don't let it happen here!
7/09: So first the Legislation passes a law that Massachusetts will follow the federal engineering standards and set all speed limits according to what 85% of motorists drive. Then they let municipalities, MassHighway Dept. and most notably the DCR deliberately, consistently and intentionally break this law and post speed limits which are lower, thus making lawbreakers out of the majority of motorists. And now, just in time for the Fourth of July - a drumroll please - they pass a bill that from now on it will cost you $75 WIN OR LOSE to exercise your right and see a judge when you get accused of breaking that very same law! And throughout the process they are lying to our faces this is about safety. Happy birthday, America!
6/09: The upcoming "Click It or Ticket" speed traps are being advertised two days early. After doing exactly nada to enforce the primary keep-to-the-right laws during June's "Lane Courtesy Month," cops are now itching to get out there and start enforcing the secondary seat belt laws. Why? Because, unlike the first campaign, this one carries financial rewards for them. And because of all the rain, these good officers - who are only concerned with our safety - are behind in the ticket writing quotas they don't have...
5/09: Even if charges of your civil traffic infraction are legally dismissed, the records of all the charges stay in your driving history forever. And when you pay for a copy of your own records the 'not responsible' dismissals will be hidden from you. However when a cop calls up your driving record - for instance at a traffic stop - all the dispositions will be listed, including the ones where you were found innocent. Usually the cops lower the fine, but if you ever beat a traffic ticket, the next time they'll make sure you won't get out of it that easy. How about 'em, apples?
3/09: Without any evidence to support the value of this law, "an act relative to operating a motor vehicle when approaching stationary emergency vehicles" became effective. However just like the "head injury surcharge," this new "move over" law, the way it's written, cannot be applied to a ticket issued on any of the MassPike roads. So guess how many cops, politicians and judges know that. And now guess how many of them care...
2/09: After months of deciding, Governor Patrick settled on raising gas taxes over toll increases. He wasted a lot of time. Even if Massachusetts motorists end up with the highest gas tax in the nation, the Pike board said they'll approve some type of toll increase anyway. Either way, people who drive will pay for the trains and busses they are not taking. What's that? Not enough people taking the T? Let's hike up the parking fees at MBTA stations! Recession cutting into air travel? While we're at it, let's hike up parking fees at Logan too! Let's soak the people who drive - they are all filthy rich...
7/08: The State Police are heavily enforcing orange construction 45 mph speed limit signs on Route 2 between Gardner and Westminster, doubling the fine. But as reported by NECN, the problem is there hasn't been any construction in the area in years... Furthermore, the orange speed limit signs are only advisory and they cannot be legally enforced. FIGHT THOSE TICKETS IN COURT and let everyone know the tickets are illegal!
5/08: The Governor's Highway Safety Bureau proudly announced it donated thousands of dollars to Berklee College of Music. Here is a thought: How about using that money to help fix a bridge or a tunnel? You know, for some 'highway safety...?'
4/08: Regarding the crumbling transportation infrastructure, a Connecticut Post 4/8/08 editorial noted: "During a recent interview on the 'NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,' U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters heroically pointed out that only about 60 percent of the revenue from the federal gas tax "actually goes into highway and bridge construction." The rest, she noted, pays for inefficient transportation pork, including bike paths. In a culture that's growing increasingly infantile, it's no wonder that a childhood activity such as bicycling is embraced by a group of ever-more-shrill adults. But there are good reasons why most of us got off bikes and climbed into cars as quickly as we (legally) could."
2/08: Back in January 2006 when the legislation set out to stiffen teen driving laws, I started campaigning for stiffer driving laws for the elderly. Now two years later, legislators and the Globe finally noticed....
12/07: The turnpike authority lost $600,000 in revenue from speeding fines after the Big Dig tunnel ceiling collapsed and then had to divert troopers from monitoring the Route 128-to-Boston corridor to use them on construction details to inspect and repair the tunnels. They also have to pay for the $1.6 million Allston U-turn ramp that's too tight for trucks, cabbies don't like, and the general public cannot use. And so the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority is now pushing troopers patrolling the 10 miles inside Route 128 to write up $2.3 million in speeding tickets next year, up from $1.7 million the Pike raked in this year in speeding fines inside Route 128.
12/07: Less than a month after the Globe paints a bright future for us with "more insurers jumping into the fray, slashing rates and offering beefed-up policies," three of the state's biggest automobile insurers file rates for next year that would overcharge 45% of Massachusetts motorists by a total of more than $100 million, according to the Attorney General's office. Way to go, Bruce Mohl!
11/07: To pay for the Big Dig, Turnpike Authority approved toll hikes that will once again effect commuters from the western suburbs. They paved the way for an increase at the Allston-Brighton and Weston tollbooths as well as at the Ted Williams and Sumner tunnels. Meanwhile a $6 million error in the authority's calculations about how much the toll increase would bring in prompted the firing a consulting firm, carrying on the Big Dig history of shoddy politicians and greedy businesses.
8/07: In 2006, 42,642 people died after traffic crashes and hospital infections caused an estimated 90,000 deaths. So perhaps the best way to reduce traffic fatalities is to get those health-care professionals who take care of accident victims to wash their hands better...
5/07: Maybe I've been a little hard on the insurance industry. After all, according to a Channel 4 WBZ news report, it is their greed what's been keeping red light cameras out of Massachusetts - so far ...
3/07: Although lower auto insurance rates go into effect April 1, drivers renewing or purchasing a policy during January, February, and March will not be able to enjoy the 2007 rate reduction. This nifty little loophole will produce a $150 million dollar bonus for the insurance industry.
2/07: Of the $2 million Turner Broadcasting is paying Boston for scaring it with a cartoon box of french fries, almost $700,000 of is going to go to the State Police. To put that into perspective, the amount won't even cover the yearly salaries of the four top earning Troopers. In all, a 2004 study estimated the costs of local police details in 2003 at $93.3 million, as much as $66.5 million more than civilians would have cost.
1/07: Poor, poor insurance companies that claim they can't afford to do business in the state were able to scape up $150,000.00 and become the largest industry group to donate to Deval Patrick's inaugural luau. Lo and behold, less than two weeks later Patrick halts Romney's auto insurance revamp these companies were opposing. Out with the old - in with the new!
12/06: Governor Mitt Romney signed into law a bill stiffening penalties for teens under 18 (for instance license reinstatement fee went from $50 to $500), while continuing to offer insurance discounts to senior citizens who have an almost identical fatality rate per miles driven. He then designated the garter snake as the official reptile of the state and left the office.
8/06: Although the number of auto thefts in Boston has plummeted 43 percent in the past six years, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Division of Insurance Regulation 211 CMR 86.07 soldiers on unabated. So what is this regulation, you ask? It's your surcharge for high auto theft, of course.
6/06: The chief executive of Boston insurer Liberty Mutual Group, Edmund F. Kelly, earned nearly $27 million in 2005, making him one of the highest paid chief executives in Massachusetts. But he wants you to know deep down he's really, really concerned that he's is not being fair to good drivers... Meanwhile Liberty Mutual continues as the proud sponsor of the Boston Pops July 4th Celebration at a cool $2 million a year for the next four years.
4/06: Have you noticed people driving any differently through construction zones since the speeding fines were doubled? Me neither. This lack of results prompted the legislation to pass a new bill: Fine doubling for speeding in school zones. When that doesn't work, double fines for speeding with children in the car will be next, followed by fine doubling while thinking of children...
The current SDIP steps of 9 to 35 will be replaced with a point system in which drivers will be assigned points based on at-fault accidents and moving violations incurred in the last five years of driving experience. So how will this point system work? It takes only 25 pages to explain! It ensures no consumer will understand again how the rates are calculated.
10/05: In our last installment, poor insurance companies were complaining they were not making any money in Massachusetts. Well, well, well. According to the Attorney General's office, last year drivers on average paid $100 too much for auto insurance, resulting in a $400 million windfall, which is "likely to result in additional excessive industry profit."
8/05: What do you do if your town's health insurance for teachers, firefighters and police costs too much money? You turn to the motorists, of course. A task force formed by Massachusetts mayors wants the state to consider doubling the excise tax rates on cars. However some lawmakers may be reluctant now to burden car owners. Don't you feel lucky gas prices are near all time record levels?
4/05: All the taxes people pay in Wellesley and the $3.7 million awarded by the feds in the latest 'mobilization' is not enough for Chief Cunningham. Now his organization wants the state to impose additional surcharges on car insurance premiums that would go towards police training. In other words, "we'll go out and ticket' em, they'll pay surcharges and we get to use their money! And let's not forget to tell 'em this is about safety! Yeah, baby! "
2/05: Citing polls that the majority of people would like to pay a 20% insurance increase after one ticket, most of the only 19 poor little insurance companies that are currently overcharging in Massachusetts formed a "grass-roots" lobbying group called "Fairness for Good Drivers." It's as if a pack of wolves announced they have banded together because the good sheep in the flock asked them to.
12/04: As Bruce Mohl reported in the Globe, the problem with the Massachusetts insurance system is that "auto insurers overcharge experienced and non-urban drivers so young and urban drivers can be undercharged." And so the insurance companies, together with Mitt and Commissioner Bowler came up with a simple fix: Let's start overcharging young and urban drivers too!
9/04: Time to lobby for an insurance increase. This time it's 9.3 percent, for a $1,183 average policy premium, which includes a 32 percent increase for the agents. "Agent costs are rising because agents spend so much time dealing with client issues," said their representative. Was too much work cutting into their golfing time?
8/04: Just in time for our one tax-free day, a new bill signed into law by Governor Mitt Romney increases the maximum fine for crosswalk offenders to $200. Gee, I understand we went all of four months without any fine increases, but how is requiring motorists to stop 10 feet from a pedestrian (instead of the previous 5 feet) any better?
4/04:The fine increases for failure to stop for a stop sign, and the fine for failure to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk to $150 each became effective. If these laws are being enforced aggressively while others - like jaywalking - are totally ignored, could profits be the motive? If fine doubling for construction zone speeding has no effect on safety, could another 50 bucks for stop signs be about anything else but money?
3/04: Commerce Group Inc. shares peaked at $48.54 on March 10 and closed yesterday at $46.78. The stock has climbed 39.6 percent over the past year. Safety Insurance Group, which went public in November 2002, hit a new high of $20.48 three weeks ago and closed yesterday at $18.26. Safety stock has soared 46 percent in the past 12 months.
1/04: Time for another unprecedented jump in auto insurance rates. This time, it prompts an investigation by the Attorney General. Only three of the 20 companies selling auto insurance announced a paltry 4 or 5% discount for their safest customers - down from 12 and 15% discounts offered only three years ago.
11/03: Well folks, the next charity to pony up to the trough is the Spinal Cord Injury fund. To get their share of the cash windfall resulting from illegally under-posted speed limits, the Health Care Committee is considering the next surcharge. If it passes, that will bring the minimum cost of a speeding ticket to $150, before any speeding fines are even added! So, when are you going to wake up and say: ENOUGH!?
7/03: As predicted, Massachusetts added a new $25 "general fund surcharge" on top of the $25 head injury fund surcharge, for a new $100 minimum. Who will be next to claim their share of the speeding ticket cash cow?
6/03: To close a $3 billion budget gap, House Ways and Means Committee proposed a $30 charge to fight a motor vehicle infraction in court. The Governor vetoes the $10 fee for a magistrate hearing, but leaves the $20 fee to appeal to a judge. He also approves the increase to $180 for the next step - the appeal of the judge's decision to the appellate court.
3/03: Citing lagging revenues (from airlines) and expanded security services (for everybody), the Massport approves Logan parking fee hikes - for motorists. Also, the Tobin Bridge tolls will go up next year....
1/03: 17 out of 22 insurance companies cut the good-driver discounts, saying they can't afford them. Presumably, the motorists still can afford the surcharges....
12/02: The new insurance commissioner allows the average auto insurance premium to be increased by 8.1%, the largest annual jump in years.
8/02: The legislation doubles the speeding fines in construction zones, despite evidence such practices have no effect on safety.
7/02: The motorists are now charged double for tolls on MassPike roads and tunnels in Boston area, to make up the Big Dig cost overruns.
9/99: Under the threat of loss of federal dollars, the "improved" car inspections are introduced and fees doubled. A year later, the percentage of rejected cars remains virtually the same. Four years later, Globe reveals the US Environmental Protection Agency launched an investigation into the state's auto emissions program after allegations surfaced that state officials have known for two years that the $29 test has never accurately measured two key tailpipe gases.
7/99: A $25 "head injury surcharge"; is added to every speeding ticket. (It is NOT authorized to be added to speeding tickets issued on MassPike roads, bridges and tunnels...) When will other charities claim their share?
IF YOU'RE NOT OUTRAGED YET - HANG UP YOUR CELLPHONE!
To counteract this trend to view motorists merely as an endless source of revenue, James J. Baxter, the President of NMA, issued a challenge.
("A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves." -- --Edward R. Murrow)
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