There was a time when there were no speed limits, no seat belt requirements, and a car never had to be registered or inspected. One simply purchased a vehicle, hopped in it, and drove off. Today we are embraced with hundreds of different traffic regulations, some of which the average person doesn’t even know exist.
Common sense would dictate that one should drive carefully for the sake of themselves and other drivers. Unfortunately common sense isn’t so common nowadays, so the traffic enforcement system is in place to help keep people in check. If one exceeds a set speed limit or fails to wear a seatbelt then their punishment is to pay the state a fine. Of course no one can as much as start a vehicle without possessing a proper state issued license and registration. As with everything else in the operation of America, there is a government organization in place to administer the regulations. Everyone has come to love this organization known as the DMV. Driving in America can be broken down fairly easy – Average Joe gets his license at 16 years old. He is required to register his first car, but not without first having insurance on it. He must also get the vehicle inspected. All of the above come with a cost of course. Joe must do a set speed limit, wear a seatbelt, use all signals as intended, keep vehicle in between a narrow set of lines, not follow too close to others, and of course not be distracted in any way. A violation of any of the above will result in a cop pulling him over and writing him a ticket that will surely result in a fine.
The state knows that people will break the rules and as such know they can make a lot of revenue from traffic enforcement. Millions of people are pulled over every day for simple “infractions” such as failure to use a turn signal or rolling through a stop sign. Most will receive a ticket and then have to pay a fine. Others may be let go with warning, while some may be subject to even bigger issues if the cop chooses to ignore the Fourth Amendment and incriminate people with searches and questioning. Now I believe safety is an important issue, but not at the tradeoff of gouging people of their money. I do think that there should be speed limits on certain roads. I believe that people have a right to choose if they want to wear a seatbelt, even if it is common sense to do so. I think seatbelts should still be enforced for children as they are not old enough to make their own decisions. I think police should not be focusing on giving out traffic tickets, but instead be focusing on the real crimes that are occurring. If car registrations, licenses, and other regulations are to be kept then they should be inexpensive, or better yet, free. The DMV, like any other government organization, is bloated and can be drastically downsized. Computers can handle most of the work that people used to handle. The DMV can still collect fees, but nowhere near the amount they do now.
Of course I do not have all the answers to regulating traffic and making the roads safer. But I completely disagree with extorting money out of people. New York State has a points system on their driver’s licenses. I think the points system is a good idea and should be used for those that violate traffic laws. If someone starts out at 0 points on their license, that means they have a clean driving record. Speeding over certain posted limits will cause the points to increase. The points stay on the driver’s record for a set period of time. If a driver hits a certain amount of points, they can lose their license for a certain period of time. Repeat offenders will simply lose their license for longer periods of time. Insurance companies can penalize drivers due to their risky driving behaviors. This may seem contradictory to my view on fines, but insurance companies are able to judge drivers based on their risk, and those that speed or break other traffic laws are higher risk and should pay more. Drivers can choose to take defensive driving courses to lower their points, and ultimately stop breaking traffic laws. The above already takes place, at least in NY. By changing the rules slightly, the state could abolish traffic fines. This would also lower costs that are involved with town courts and county District Attorney’s from spending all their time on traffic violation offenders. Highly trained and educated police officers can also focus their time and efforts on the criminal element, and not sitting in a car checking for people that break the speed limit. I am all for traffic enforcement laws to keep our roads safe, but fines are not the solution, they are simply a way for the state to extort money from the citizens.