Traffic tickets are big business in the United States. In fact, it’s estimated that between the actual fines for traffic tickets and the other costs associated with them, traffic tickets generate multiple billions of dollars every year.
Tickets do very little to actually improve driving safety, of course, but they’re not going away anytime soon; they line too many pockets with too much money.
Here are some of the parties that profit every time you get a ticket:
1. Insurance companies. This one you’re probably already aware of. When you get a ticket, chances are it’s going to impact your car insurance premiums. Most insurance companies do have a forgiveness policy that will let it slide if you have one minor moving violation, but after that all bets are usually off. In fact, it’s estimated that the insurance companies make more than $1 billion each year in higher rates due to tickets.
2. Red light camera system monitoring companies. You might not know this, but most of the time the cameras that monitor intersections and pass out tickets aren’t actually run by the local governments that use them. They’re typically outsourced. That company makes a profit every time you blow through a red light, because the municipality pays for the equipment and the service. In the end, you wind up paying for it, because that all comes out of your tax dollars.
3. Traffic schools. In some cases, when you wind up taking a defensive driving course in order to receive a reduced ticket, you wind up funding that defensive driving company. These companies make their money almost exclusively on people who have had traffic tickets, and without tickets there would be no traffic schools. (That said, given a choice between traffic school and points on your license, it’s time to dust off your books and pencils.)
4. Radar gun manufacturers. Radar gun technology is used almost exclusively by law enforcement. Sure, an occasional baseball team might use one to clock a pitch, and there are military implementations as well. But the vast majority of their business comes from putting speed detectors into police cruisers. This says nothing, of course, about the technology companies that actually do all of the research and development that wind up being used in these radar guns.
5. Radar detector manufacturers. While there are some other uses for radar guns, there aren’t too many for radar detectors. Because of the whole speeding ticket system, these companies are in business today. Ironically, in some cases the companies that make the radar guns are also the very same companies that produce the radar detectors, which is probably one of the best ways to play both sides of the fence that we’ve ever seen.
6. Document storage companies. Many governments are outsourcing their document management to private companies. Every time you get a ticket, you’re creating paperwork and records that have to be maintained.
7. Criminal justice students and crime victims. In some states, a portion of the ticket fee that you pay goes to specific causes as identified by the state legislatures. For example, in Virginia, $1 of every traffic ticket goes to criminal justice training. Another $3 goes to the victims of crimes, and $2 goes to sexual abuse victims. We’re not suggesting that those people shouldn’t be helped out, but what we are suggesting is that state legislatures are taking advantage of the system to funnel money to causes not directly related to traffic violations.
8. Robe manufacturers. The prevalence of moving violations results in the need for more judicial personnel. In the grand scheme of things, a portion of the ticket price goes to court costs. That means more judges, and that means more money into the long pockets of the companies that manufacture judge robes.
At the end of the day, you’re better off with your own money. Whether you find a way to get the court to reduce the cost of your ticket, or whether you do your best not to get a ticket in the first place, make it your goal to force these companies to find other ways to stay in business. After all, it’s your money, and a single driving mistake shouldn’t be responsible for keeping so many others in business on a daily basis.
Scott Desind is a Los Angeles traffic ticket attorney, helping drivers in the Los Angeles area get their driving tickets dismissed. With over 20 years of combined, Scott Desind and his Traffic Attorneys have a 90% success rate in beating tickets.
FatWallet Tip: It’s Automotive Deals week here on FatWallet! Check out our Automotive promo page for cash back, coupons, and deals on auto parts, tires, and supplies!