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State revenues driving increased ticketing?

April 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The California Highway Patrol likes to maintain high visibility. A new report says the CHP is writing more tickets these days. Some think it's an effort to raise more revenue. However, the real answer is more complicated than you might think.

It's an issue of debate, especially in line at L.A.'s downtown traffic court: Many motorists believe that as the government budgets are squeezed, there is an uptick in ticketing.

Adding fuel to their argument, the California Highway Patrol has released its most recent figures. They show that the number of citations in 2009 were up by 200,000 over the two previous years.

"Do we write citations? Yes. But not one dime of any citation comes back to the Highway Patrol," said CHP Asst. Commissioner Ramona Prieto. "I gave you a document that talks about where all the fine money goes, where all the fee money goes. None of that comes back to the Highway Patrol."

The CHP says that in addition to more tickets, there were also more contacts with drivers and more warnings issued.

The increase in ticketing in statewide ticketing could be linked to new laws, cellphone restrictions especially.

A driver advocacy group says though that nationwide there seem to be more complaints that police agencies are writing tickets for marginal violations.

Eyewitness News reached Gary Biller, the executive director of the National Motorists Association, on the phone.

"Stricter enforcement of minor offenses on the roads, more reports of speed traps being set up," said Biller. "They're seeing more of a zero-tolerance enforcement practice where cars are being pulled over and warnings aren't being issued. Just tickets are being issued."

Yet a CHP spokesman in the Los Angeles area says: "It has been business as usual. Officers have not been told to increase enforcement. Motorist safety is the bottom line."

One trend that is not disputed is the fewer number of fatal accidents, nearly 3,800 in 2006. In 2008 the amount was almost 700 fewer.

An LAPD Traffic Division captain said their numbers are also up by 12 to 14 percent in the same years. They say that they have had a number of violators, but the number of violators doesn't compare to the number of people who should have ticketed and weren't ticketed. Many who should have been ticketed got away with it.