Traffic tickets can be troublesome and expensive, yet ultimately they exist to make our roads safer. But when reckless drivers are able to plead down serious violations that should be removing them from the driver’s seat, the safety of all Long Islanders on the road is put at serious risk.
Plea Deals Can Be Dangerous!
Some residents are skeptical about traffic tickets and it’s understandable why. According to an article published by Newsday this week, Long Island collected a total of $146 million in traffic fines in 2017 and some of the fees collected were from the controversial red-light cameras. Despite this belief, traffic tickets have a dual purpose when it comes to municipalities: to punish drivers who are not following the traffic laws in hopes to reduce reckless behaviors, while using the additional revenue to better our cities and towns.
Plea deals, however, can make protecting our roads via traffic tickets far more difficult. Unlike red-light camera fines which are issued to the vehicle owners with no point penalties, traffic tickets issued for dangerous behaviors such as speeding have the option for a driver to plead down to lesser charges, affecting multiple different parties in the process.
How Plea Deals Work
When a reckless driver gets a ticket for speeding or careless driving, the first reaction is to fight back. Initially, drivers have the option of downgrading the ticket or having it amended to an ‘unsafe driving’ charge by way of a plea deal. The driver not only gets out of points on their license but avoids the mark of an actual speeding or careless driving charge on their record. Plea deals still require drivers to pay larger fines, but not as hefty as the original offenses. Fees collected on traffic tickets for less serious offenses stay within the municipalities themselves and don’t require the collection of a surcharge which is handed over to the state.
Encouraging Dangerous Drivers
Even though a driver might have a lighter wallet after accepting a plea deal, there are no significant incentives not to repeat these reckless behaviors without the additional penalties to worry about. In the State of New York, the law states that a driver will have their license suspended if they get 11 points or receive three speeding tickets within an 18-month period. Drivers who plead guilty to lesser charges may have met these requirements if they had pleaded guilty to their original tickets but plea deals allow them to skip these severe consequences and continue practicing dangerous driving habits.
Data collection needed to improve traffic laws and infrastructure can be skewed when drivers accept plea deals. Our state and national organizations such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rely on reports and statistics analyzing driving behaviors to update traffic laws and policies that protect us on the road. They also use the data to determine areas of priority when it comes to road improvements, renovations, and speed limit adjustments to help keep accident rates down.
Plea deals provide inaccurate data concerning the number of actual speeding and careless driving offenses cited on our roadways, making it harder to use the data correctly to improve traffic safety. An article published by Data-Smart City Solutions in October 2017 highlights the importance of accurate data when it comes to New York City achieving its Vision Zero goal of zero traffic fatalities. Unreported dangerous driving habits can provide an unreliable impression about how safe certain traffic areas are and what plans would be most effective in making them safer for drivers and pedestrians.
Missed Revenue for State
In addition to inaccurate data, the state misses out on revenue from traffic tickets in the form of surcharges for serious traffic violations. The state collects about $100 per offense in addition to the fine paid for the traffic offense. Though residents may find these surcharges over the top and unnecessary, these fines go towards funding court-appointed attorneys, crime victim assistance programs, and to the state’s general fund which supports various state agencies.
Insurance Companies Fooled
Insurance companies can also bear the brunt of drivers accepting plea deals for traffic tickets. When a driver displays reckless behaviors on the road, their insurance premiums go up as their risk to others goes up too. Without the correct information on how risky drivers really are, insurance companies are deceived out of charging appropriate premiums to cover these dangerous motorists. They also miss out on data that can be used to improve policies and create useful reports analyzing road safety from a national perspective.
Tickets Really Do Save Lives
Traffic laws may be cumbersome but studies show they work. In an analysis of regional highway safety laws and FARS mortality statistics performed by Auto Insurance Center, data showed that states with the strictest traffic laws saw lower rates of road fatalities caused by vehicle crashes. In another study published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, researchers analyzed the effectiveness of a ticket program in Massachusetts. They found that as unpopular as traffic tickets were, drivers drove safer during heavily ticketed periods than they did when ticketing was lax.
Drive Safe NY
All of the fuss around plea deals and traffic tickets can be avoided if drivers use safe driving habits on the road. Speeding and using reckless maneuvers to get where you need to be quicker is not worth taking someone’s life. Slow down, pay attention, and avoid using aggressive moves that could cause unnecessary and preventable accidents.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, the law firm of Siler & Ingber is here to help. Our expert team of personal injury attorneys has been fighting back against negligent drivers in New York City and Long Island for over 20 years. Contact us at 1-877-529-4343 today for a free case review to find out more about your options.