“The federal and state governments treat motorists like disciplinarian ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ parents,” says the head of the National Motorists Association, “except that motorists aren’t children and there is scant evidence that the penalties inflicted by forced ticketing campaigns improve highway traffic safety,”
The group recently sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, urging her to appoint someone to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who will oppose federal policies that pressure law enforcement into using traffic ticket quotas. The position of NHTSA chief has been empty since the beginning of the Trump administration.
The National Motorists Association, or NMA, says that current federal policy has the effect of pressuring state and local law enforcement agencies into focusing much of their time writing tickets. The reason is that about half of NHTSA’s annual $1.2 billion budget goes to highway safety grants. Unfortunately, the success of these grants depends on law enforcement tracking the number of speeding tickets each agency issues.
This is pernicious, according to the NMA, because there is no solid tie between issuing large numbers of speeding tickets and improvements in highway safety. It also encourages law enforcement leadership to set quotas for tickets, which violate motorists’ rights.
“What isn’t debatable is that making funding contingent on meeting certain activity levels is a direct incentive for state and local law enforcement to implement a quota system,” wrote the head of the NMA.
Furthermore, more effective options exist for promoting traffic safety, according to the group. One is providing advanced driver skills training to young or novice drivers. Another would be to have states reevaluate the goal of trying to maintain a posted speed limit in favor of trying to maintain uniform traffic flow. Or, Section 402 and High Visibility Enforcement grants could be redirected to road construction projects, which are desperately needed.
“At a time when we desperately need stronger bonds of trust and respect between the nation’s 250 million licensed drivers and police agencies, the current system is only making the situation worse.”
The NMA hopes Chao will appoint a NHTSA administrator who is willing to “shake up the status quo.”