Letter to the Editor

The Price You Pay

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The recession has led to many changes in our society today. Unemployment, rising costs and declining income are only a few of the side effects that families are dealing with. Many are doing what they can to cut back in areas of their budget that are seen as discretionary, making every dollar go as far as it can. With all of this on everybody's mind, who has the money to pay for a traffic ticket? Why do the prices of tickets keep getting more and more expensive? Doesn't law enforcement have anything better to do than write tickets to raise revenue?

This is an all too common theme, but is magnified as tough economic times hit. It is true that citation prices have gone up over the years. A quick comparison of seatbelt fines between 1999 and 2009 show an increase of $65.75 ($28 in 1999 and $93.75 in 2009). It should be noted, however that only $15 of that increase has been for the scheduled fine, the remainder of the increase has been in court costs and criminal surcharges. By the same token, speeding fines have also risen. A speeding violation of 75 mph in a 65 mph zone would have cost you $41 in 1999. Today the same violation will set you back $114. Only $20 of that increase is for the actual fine. I know that is little consolation, because regardless of where the extra money goes, it still leaves your wallet. That leaves us with the final question... doesn't law enforcement have anything better to do than write tickets to raise revenue?

This question really has two issues that need to be addressed separately. The first issue is where your fine money goes, and the second being the purpose of active traffic enforcement.

When a citation is issued by the Iowa State Patrol, the associated fine money goes directly to the State of Iowa's general fund. It does not go to into the Iowa State Patrol budget to pay for salary, or equipment purchases. We have already seen that the majority of the increase in fine prices goes to court costs/surcharges, so we can rule that out as a large source of greater revenue as well.

The real reason for active traffic enforcement is summed up in one word, deterrence. With over 37,000 people killed in traffic crashes last year, there is a clear need for that deterrent factor. Even though you may not actually get stopped for a seatbelt violation, the chance that you could and have to pay a $93.75 ticket is enough to make you click it. With Iowa's compliance rate up to 93.1 percent, it shows our efforts are having an effect.

What is the bottom line you ask? Tickets are expensive in any economy. Make a habit of obeying the traffic laws and not worrying about getting stopped. In the long run it may not just be your wallet that thanks you, but your loved ones as well.


Trooper Vince Kurtz

Iowa State Patrol