In 2002, police in the city of Detroit gave out a total of 126,007 traffic tickets. Last year, the number of tickets grew to over 245,000 – a 94% jump. The increase was even larger in small towns like Plymouth which saw the number of tickets go up from 440 to 2,500 — up 480 percent — over the same amount of time. According to Detroit area police the reason for the increase is dwindling property tax revenue. That lack of property tax revenue has forced local governments in Michigan to use average citizen drivers to fill the coffers. You might call it a new, “random driving tax.”
“When I first started in this job thirty years ago, police work was never about revenue enhancement,” Utica Police Chief Michael Reaves told the Detroit News. “But if you’re a chief now, you have to look at whether your department produces revenues. That’s just the reality nowadays.”
The National Motorists Association pointed to Detroit suburbs as home to some of the worst speed traps in the entire country. Upwards of 18 jurisdictions in the area reported an increase in ticketing of more than fifty percent.
“When elected officials say, ‘We need more money,’ they can’t look to the department of public works to raise revenues, so where do they find it? Police departments,” Police Officers Association of Michigan President James Tagnanelli told the News.
“I’ve spent eight years in traffic services, and I was a crash reconstructionist for five years before that,” Michigan State Police Lieutenant Gary Megge told the News. “So I’ve seen my share of fatal wrecks, and I can tell you: Deaths are not caused by speeding. They’re caused by drinking, drugs and inattentiveness. The old adage that speed kills just isn’t realistic. The safest speed is the speed that is correct for that roadway at a given time. A lot of speed limits are set artificially low.”
The Michigan State Police promotes setting limits according to the 85th percentile rule. This widely used principle is used to determine a practical speed limit by measuring how fast the vast majority of traffic, 85 percent, travel in safety.
“It just doesn’t seem right to me that we would enforce a law where 90-98 percent of the people are in violation of it,” Lieutenant Megge told the News. “It’s not the way we should do business in this country.”