Hide Your Wallet: 7 Places To Avoid Driving Through This Holiday Weekend

September 2009

With tight budgets, many cities have turned to traffic tickets to generate a quick influx of cash.

The National Motorists Association (www.motorists.org), a motorists’ rights organization, has identified localities focused on ticket revenue that drivers may want to avoid over Labor Day weekend.

1) Chicago, Illinois

Chicago has an extensive red-light camera system. There are over 140 cameras positioned to ticket drivers everyday. Less well-known is that their yellow lights are timed to entrap motorists with short 3.0 second intervals, a tactic guaranteed to generate thousands of red light tickets. A single camera has been known to generate $700,000 to $800,000 per year.

These short yellow lights fail to meet legitimate traffic engineering standards and lead to unneccessary red-light violations, violations that could be easily prevented simply by increasing the yellow light duration to the correct levels.

The city also sold it’s parking meters to a private company which promptly doubled the fees and plans to quadruple them within three years.

2) Chillicothe & Heath, Ohio

Both of these cities started controversial ticket camera programs. Chillicothe started collecting money from drivers without bothering to set up any kind of an appeal system — instead they referred drivers with disputed tickets to the camera manufacturer.

Heath, a city of 8,800 people, issued more than 10,000 tickets in the first three weeks of operation. Before the city dismissed many of the tickets due to public pressure, the revenue at $100 per ticket would have been $830,000, even after paying the camera company their fee.

3) Los Angeles, California

The city of Los Angeles issued over 30,000 red-light camera tickets last year. At $159 apiece, these driver penalties netted the city almost $4.8 million. However, it was later discovered that over 80% of tickets were given for right turn on red violations, which have little to no impact on traffic safety.

4) Duncanville, Texas

This city, with a population of 38,500, issued over 43,000 red-light camera tickets last year. Much like Los Angeles, the city focused on right-turn on red violations, which accounted for 85% of the tickets given out. Because of the amount of money they bring in, the mayor even went as far as arresting an alderman who disagreed with the city’s tactics.

5) Phoenix & Scottsdale, Arizona

Despite widespread criticism from citizens, these two cities — and others in Arizona — continue to relentlessly expand their speed camera networks. In 2008, Scottsdale alone issued $17 million in automated tickets. Luckily for drivers visiting from out of state, the cities rarely bother to follow up on camera based tickets issued to non-residents.

6) Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. is overrun with ticket cameras. They even have ticket cameras installed on their street sweepers. The city has also been criticized for ticketing motorists in their own driveways. Over a six-year period, the District has issued more than 500,000 citations and $32 million in fines via automated tickets.

7) Entire State of Florida

When it comes to respecting drivers, the state of Florida is a disaster. The state is home to two of the most notorious speed trap cities in the country (Waldo and Lawtey) and — despite the Attorney General ruling them illegal — numerous Florida cities have jumped on to the red-light camera bandwagon. Avoid the entire state if you can.

Many of the places on this list use some form of automated enforcement, but it’s important to note that traditional enforcement techniques like speed traps (over 25,000 listed on www.speedtrap.org) are still extremely common.

For more information on how to fight back against excessive and unfair enforcement of traffic laws, motorists are encouraged to visit the National Motorists Association’s website at www.motorists.org.