By on December 6, 2007

gps-speedtrap-detector-20050712b.jpgThe Newspaper reports that the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA) is using federal gas tax revenue to fund competitions to see which police departments can write the most speeding tickets. The National Law Enforcement Challenge, as it's called, rewards speeding ticket-happy police departments with federally-funded tricked-out "pursuit vehicles," like the ever popular Hemi-fied Charger. To earn maximum points, the po-po must have a zero-tolerance (i.e. no warning) anti-speeding policy in place. NHTSA argues that writing more tickets promotes safer driving, but the statistics beg to differ. Traffic fatalities in one participating state, South Carolina, are up for the year. While some departments are attempting to use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior, increased fines (and subsequent revenues) appear to be the order of the day. And the list of winners' "creative" ticketing is downright scary. 

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15 Comments on “NHTSA Funds National Speeding Ticket Writing “Challenge”...”


  • avatar
    quasimondo

    And this is what you want an increase in your gasoline taxes to go to, people?

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    The real irony is that gas taxes are going up because consumption is going down (cars get better gas mileage, people conserve gas more, etc), leading to lower tax revenue. Strange how increased taxes, and not budget cuts, are always the first line of reasoning…

  • avatar
    NeonCat93

    Wow, I saw the Dodge Magnum the DeKalb County, GA, Police won just yesterday! It makes for a really ugly police car. (Their colors are black bottom, silver top, on all their cruisers – and station wagons, evidently.)

    Stupid government.

  • avatar
    Orian

    Well this explains why South Bloomfield, Ohio’s popo have a Charger.

    They couldn’t afford anything other than used cruisers in the past.

  • avatar
    NBK-Boston

    Megan:

    For the folks on this site who have advocated for increased gas taxes (and I am sympathetic to that view, to a point), the whole purpose would not be to increase revenue, but to spur a decrease in consumption. Pushing consumption down is seen as a public good because of environmental and national security concerns. In fact, many proposals aired here are explicitly designed to be revenue-neutral; any increase in revenues would be offset by tax cuts or credits elsewhere.

    Regarding your “higher prices lead to decreased consumption leads to lower overall tax revenues” point, that dynamic only holds true when the increase in pump price is due to the increase in the actual cost — as is the case now.

    If, hypothetically, the underlying cost of gas remains constant while the pump price goes up due to increased taxes, consumption — as measured by number of gallons — will drop, but tax revenues will remain constant or increase. This is because gasoline demand is somewhat inelastic, meaning an increase in price will prompt a decrease in consumption, but always in smaller proportion.

    On the main point of this article, I have to say that this program seems just plan bad. Tickets represent revenue to local police departments — and they also represent a political balancing act. Don’t enforce the laws enough, and local residents complain that the roads are unsafe. Enforce too much, and local residents complain about the jack-booted police state we live in. Activity levels are set at a balance that reflects all these concerns, and having a clueless remote actor come in and try to dictate what’s best will probably just irritate people and make everyone more unhappy. NHSTA would do well to study the safety effects of different sort of enforcement styles and make the data available to state and local governments, but pushing police forces to adopt behaviors which they wouldn’t choose otherwise is silly.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    If consumption hadn’t gone down, revenues wouldn’t have decreased, and you wouldn’t have politicians across the US trying to raise gas taxes (which are generally flat fees, not percentages). The catch is that with gas being so expensive, any politician that starts pushing for this gets shot down immediately because no one wants gas more expensive than it already is.

    Argue about the inelasticity of demand all you want, but the fact is, it has gone down — people are driving less, and driving more efficient cars, and local/state governments are feeling the pinch. There’s also talk of replacing flat gas taxes with mileage based taxes to better fleece the sheeple. Oil consumption is inelastic, not gasoline consumption.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    I think I’m gonna get a dashboard cam to moniter my speed on my drives from now on. I have this itching feeling that many false tickets are going to be written up as “crunch” time comes for the contest. A lot of two and three mph over the limit tickets.

  • avatar
    speedlaw

    This is also an indirect subsidy to the States. The states are not rolling in money, but this federal money will pay for OT for “special details” (copspeak for radar trapping), so the cops will be happy. Takes pressure off the State for more pay.

    The fines generated stay with the states. Figure that you can write hundreds of tickets per trap per shift, and the money adds up fast.

    Since most of the special details will be on interstate roads, we will see the most enforcement levelled on the safest roads which are mostly built for the speeds observed, legal or not.

    NY State proved a while back, under “operation saturation speed enforcement”, that there is no real change in travel speeds absent a marked cruiser with lights on.

  • avatar
    able

    Nothing in the creative category seems so Orwellian. Cops with radar guns not dressing like cops. Personally, being as traffic slows down to 10 miles under the limit whenever anyone sees a cop on the side of the road, let them rock it.

    Lets face it — people driving too fast for the conditions cause accidents, injuries, and death. Sometimes there own, sometimes other people’s. Maybe ticketing decreases bad driving; maybe it doesn’t. But dangerous driving is dangerous driving, and there ain’t nothing wrong with punishing it. I know I was more aware of my speed after I got a ticket.

    I’m sure there are plenty of folk out there that will say that speed limits are a rough idea, and as an experienced motorist they can judge the safety of the conditions. I’m sure they can. But I prefer knowing that there is a brightline of what is safe and what isn’t, not the 16 year old behind the wheel.

  • avatar
    Wolven

    The fact that so many morons still buy into the “speed kills” dogma is just sad. The 5 biggest killers on US roads are; Inattention, Ignorance, Inability (can’t DRIVE their way out of a wet paper bag, in any circumstance), Congestion, and the biggest one of all, unsafe vehicles. Furthermore, I firmly believe all the statistical evidence would point to the same thing. Unfortunately, we never get to see the true statistics as it would clearly contradict the never ending stream of B.S. flowing from government and communist groupies. And just how, exactly, is hiding behind a bush with a radar gun going to alter any of those 5 facts? Right.

    So let me get this straight… We are taking money from the sheep and using it to fund contests on who can rob (at gunpoint by the way) the most from the sheep… and then reward the best little gestapo agents with snazy new rides… God, isn’t it great that we live in the freest country in the world…..

  • avatar

    But dangerous driving is dangerous driving, and there ain’t nothing wrong with punishing it. I know I was more aware of my speed after I got a ticket.

    Yeah, but an awful lot of so-called speeding is not dangerous driving. Let the cops ticket people who are REALLY driving dangerously, the out of control kids, etc., but leave the rest of us alone. This NHTSA thing is terrible as far as I’m concerned–it will encourage cops to ticket people who are actually driving safely.

    Important point: we have speed limits and then we have de facto speed limits, the speeds at which the cops generally start ticketing which are generally 5-10 mph above the posted limits, which are unrealistic. This will encourage cops to start ticketing at lower speeds which are safe.

    People should complain to their congresspeople about this. Call them! Tell them NHTSA should not be in the business of setting up contests like this when everyone knows the posted speed limits are a sham. The main # on Capitol Hill is 202-224-3121. And join the national Motorists Association which lobbies against this sort of nonsense (NMA.org, I think.) Thanks Megan for bringing this to our attention.

  • avatar
    DearS

    Can cops really be trusted to give tickets uncorrupted? Seriously I’d be very sad to see corrupt cops giving BS tickets. What in the world! I fee angry thinking about it. Well I can not control others, I need to let go, and accept. Things could be worst, I’ll focus on what else I enjoy, and is safe and fun to do. And Vent! I have everything I need and a lot to be grateful for. Its not my fault some folk with guns are dishonest, abusive, and corrupt. Its not anyones fault. Humans are not perfect, they are works in progress. Let go, let live, and enjoy what I have in front of me. Have a good night.

  • avatar
    glenn126

    I keep saying that the US government and by extension, police, are out of control. Need more proof that we the people don’t count?

    Locally, a police occifer provided drink to his teen kid and 10-12 other underaged drinkers. If Joe Average had done that and caught, I’d guess that he’d get at least a couple of years in the slammer.

    The cop was given 1 week in jail. The judge (ironically) essentially said, “we don’t just wink at crime if it is done by police”. Right. So then why was this guy’s jail sentence one week, then, is the obvious next question.

    Then there are all the tazings, including the killing of a 40 year old guy in Vancouver BC at the airport (just goes to show Canada is not immune), with Mounties kneeling on his neck after tazing him because he didn’t speak English and they didn’t understand his frustration with being locked away for 10 hours. And all the other tazings that seem to pop up daily.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    I have to disagree on one point Glenn. Tazing leads to many an entertaining YouTube video, and anyone who says in seriousness “Don’t Taze Me Bro” I think fully deserves to get a few jolts to shut him up. Otherwise, I agree.

  • avatar
    glenn126

    OK virtual, stop making me laugh out loud at work, dang it!


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