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Michigan Police Chiefs Admit Speeding Tickets Are About Money

Posted in Newsworthy, Politics, Roads, Safety, Scandal, Traffic by Vito Rispo | November 17th, 2008 | 34 Responses |

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.”

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34 Responses

  1. [...] police chiefs admit speeding tickets are about money Michigan Police Chiefs Admit Speeding Tickets Are About Money __________________ Car: Volkswagen New Beetle 2000 GLX 1.8T RD: Valentine One 3.863 [POP on, X [...]

  2. patrick says:

    no thats not the way business should be done in this country. i always knew there was something funny going on , as i’m sure alot of other people have suspected to. as far as i’m concerned this isnt the land of the free and the home of the brave……..its now the land of the money grabbers and the home of the whats in your wallet.

  3. Nick says:

    I commend this officer for his honesty. A person who turns against his employer for ethical reason is a rarity and deserves respect.

  4. joe says:

    Only a random tax amongst the folks who drive too fast.

    Much as the lottery is largely random, you have to play to win.

  5. [...] Police Chiefs Admit Speeding Tickets Are About Money Michigan Police Chiefs Admit Speeding Tickets Are About Money a little honesty from some michigan police [...]

  6. Tyler says:

    The problem here isn’t that police are increasing there patrols and catching more people. They aren’t raising the fine (according to this article at least) but are just catching more people that are breaking the law.

    Do I speed? Yes. Do I enjoy it? Yes. Do I think some speed limits are too low? Yet again, yes. However our energy should be spent *changing* the law, not attacking those who enforce the law, or enforce it better one day than another. We wouldn’t be complaining if they had caught 100% more people committing petty theft.

    If anything, this statistic speaks to the number of people breaking the law. Here in a democracy (or republic, whatever), we change our laws, we don’t complain about if they are enforced or not.

  7. otg says:

    Highway robbery. Literally. The only difference between police and thieves is a badge.

  8. @otg: Really? So the next time you’re in trouble, you’re going to call a crack head and/or convicted felon?

    Nah, didn’t think so. But nice try kid.

  9. Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s not kid ourselves. The cops, the magistrates, the district court judges and the many court employees receive paychecks too. Where do you think the money comes from?

    Visit DoTakeItPersonal.com and read the archived accounts of many more examples of Metro Detroit police officers putting cold hard cash into their own pockets by writing various traffic tickets and simply showing up in court to pick up overtime pay rates.

    Look around yourself, do you see many court buildings or police departments that are run-down? The answer is No. The Oakland County district courts, Macomb County district courts, the many police departments ranging from Roseville and Clawson to Rochester Hills and Troy all sure look brand new and cost a good amount of taxpayer dollars.

    If you read the posts on DoTakeItPersonal.com, and come away with a better understanding about the way municipal, county and state government works, you would have been a smarter citizen today compared to yesterday.

  10. grolaw says:

    Speeding tickets are revenue – and there has been litigation limiting funding of the court that hears the ticket to sources independent of the ticket revenue.

    That was decided around 1971 – so this is really “breaking news.”

    There is almost no way to beat a moving violation – and the officer can fill out a ticket with a flat lie and s/he will never be caught. You just pay the ticket and eat the increase in insurance or you pay a lawyer to have the ticket reduced to a “non-moving” violation and no insurance rate increase happens.

    This state of affairs is the norm across the US.

  11. nihil says:

    The point isn’t whether they are enforcing it better one day than another, it’s that the law is unfair to begin with. I think the main think to take out of this is the current system of government is flawed because of the lack of transparency. Unfair laws will continue to be used to siphon money from the people as long as we allow some to be more informed than others.

  12. Some Guy says:

    Suzanne,

    When the cops are the robbers, the place to turn for personal protection is your local gun store. Calling them for help is pointless.

  13. jim frost says:

    “The problem here isn’t that police are increasing there patrols and catching more people. They aren’t raising the fine (according to this article at least) but are just catching more people that are breaking the law.”

    Literally true, but sort of beside the point: Speed enforcement is nominally about safety. The 85th percentile rule isn’t random, it is based on a distribution of speeds versus accidents … and it’s true in both directions, which few people realize. There’s the 15th percentile too, and in fact those people contribute just as many accidents (three times the norm) as the speeders and /nine times/ as many multi-vehicle accidents as the norm. And, importantly, these are deviations from average traffic speed, not deviations from posted limit.

    How about those posted limits? A wide variety of studies have shown that speed limits in the US are not set according to engineering guidelines such as the 85th percentile rule. Rather, they are set according to political whim. For instance: Many interstates around me (eastern MA) are posted 55mph. The roads were designed to be safe at 70-75mph /in 1950s era military vehicles/. (And until 1974 they were posted pretty much that way.) It should be no surprise that average traffic speeds are near 70mph because that is approximately the design speed of the roads. 85th percentile is about 75mph. Importantly, 15th percentile is around 60mph. At 55mph not only is the speed set below 85th percentile, it’s set to a speed so low as to make the few drivers obeying the limit amongst the least safe on the road.

    That is insanity. Luckily the police do not really enforce 55mph on those roads, usually; they enforce much closer to median speeds (65-70mph, on the low end of the road design speeds). They can issue tickets all day at that level since half to three quarters of all drivers are exceeding it.

    So: The limits are absurd. Why do they remain so? Largely because of insurance lobbying coupled with a very effective propaganda campaign tying speed to risk (started, interestingly enough, when the fall in oil prices made the “saves gas” appeal to lower limits nonsensical). Most people actually believe that the speed limits are set appropriately and that going faster is less safe, regardless of all evidence to the contrary, and that provides a firm political backing to support the insurance industry’s desire to keep limits low. And they want them low: Risk increases above the 85th percentile, but insurance companies raise rates according to tickets issued. Ideally these would be essentially the same, but in actuality they are often widely divergent. Every ticket issued at below 85th percentile is pure profit for the insurance company: No increased risk, but increased income. Sweet, eh? Keep those limits low!

    A few other things to toss out for you the-law-is-the-law people, or those who believe that speeding is a primary cause of accidents.

    The average speed of an accident in the US is 29mph. The average speed of an accident, omitting interstate highways, is 27mph. That should tell you two things: Highways are very, very safe (and hence speed enforcement, which centers on highways, is seriously misplaced) and that most people involved in accidents are not speeding (which means that speed enforcement ought to be a secondary enforcement issue whereas it is usually the primary point of enforcement).

    So what really causes accidents? Principally failure to yield. People running stop signs, red lights, turning left in front of traffic, etc. Secondarily (maybe primarily these days, my data is a few years old) inattentiveness and DWI. Alarmingly many studies are showing that cellphone use is more dangerous than DWI! (Almost nobody — fewer than 2% of the populace — can split their attentiveness in this way without very significant loss of ability. If you think you’re one of them you are almost certainly very wrong.)

    I don’t know about where you live, but I can count the number of tickets I’ve ever seen issued for failure to obey traffic signals or inattentive driving on the fingers of one hand, even though I frequent intersections where police are almost always present and even though it takes no special effort to see drivers who are clearly paying no attention to their driving.

    I happen to have seen a map of where accidents happened in my town over a period of more than a decade. They are, with very very few exceptions, at intersections.

    Enforcement, however, happens on the wide-open straightaways where accidents are vanishingly rare. These are easy, and large, tickets: In MA up to 10mph over is $175 ($100 for the ticket and $75 in incidental fees) and each 1mph after that is an additional $10. If the police bag an average driver at 69mph the ticket, therefore, is $205[1]. Perhaps more importantly the insurance company bags at least $3000 in added income from that ticket over the six-year period they can surcharge you for it. That money adds up, both for the state and for the insurance industry!

    Getting back to reality-based speed limits: During the debate for the repeal of the 55mph national speed limit the doom-and-gloomers were claiming that it was going to result in carnage on the road, that most people drove 10mph over the limit anyway and that now they’d be doing 75mph. We’ve had plenty of time to assess the actual changes now and it turns out they were wrong on all counts. After the repeal the average speed on now-65mph roads actually increased from 67mph to 69mph. Traffic fatalities /dropped/ as motorists shifted from driving on less-safe rural roads to highways that had previously been heavily enforced.

    Traffic pretty much sticks to the design limits of the road, and is safest doing so. Enforcement really ought to be centered around unsafe driving activities and limits ought to be set according to actual safety concerns. It isn’t done that way because there are strong financial motivations for keeping limits low.

    This is doubly stupid; not only does it mean we’ve set the laws to make money rather than improve public safety, it means that people have come to believe that the speed limit signs are ridiculous and don’t pay any attention to them. That matters a lot when you come up on an area where the posted limit is meaningful; drivers will not pay it any special attention. (In some parts of rural NY the underposted limit signs are white and the correct limit signs are yellow to indicate that you really should pay attention to this. Seriously.)

    I threw a lot of numbers at you. I deliberately didn’t give you any references. I don’t want you to believe me, or anyone. I want you to go out and get the raw data (it’s available!) and see what the statistics actually say. I have been doing that for more than a decade now and to say that I was surprised at how blatantly the public is lied to would be an understatement. Much of what is promulgated as traffic safety in this country is false, disturbingly so, and laws are passed based on that information, and people pay fines based on laws that are seriously misplaced. That really needs to stop.

    jim frost
    jimf@frostbytes.com

    [1] In MA the towns don’t get this money directly, it goes to the state. But there are kickbacks.

  14. [...] Horror! Speed doesn’t kill! Michigan Police Chiefs Admit Speeding Tickets Are About Money __________________ When a passenger of the foot moves in sight, tootle the horn trumpet [...]

  15. JD says:

    The problem I see in my area is that in order to increase ticket revenue, many small townships are reducing posted speeds that have stood for decades. For example, main street in my home town has been a 35 MPH zone for at least as long as I have been alive ( > 30 years). All of a sudden all the speed limit signs last year were replaced with 30 MPH, for apparently no reason. Since that point the number of tickets handed out for speeding has skyrocketed. I’m sorry, but I can only see this as a revenue generator. The cost of replacing those signs was probably covered in the first month, and since then it’s all been gravy in the village coffers. I’ve got no problem paying taxes for services provided, but I do have a problem with ethically questionable actions that are targeted at forcing money out of the people’s pockets.

  16. Why don’t we just bail the local law enforcement officials while were at it? At least this way they can actually do something productive like take drugs off the street instead of setting up a speed trap.

  17. brien says:

    The funny thing is, in my experience, Michigan is (generally) very reasonable in terms of traffic enforcement. I drive all over the country, and I’d rather be pulled over in Michigan that just about anywhere.

  18. ml says:

    The problem isn’t that they’re enforcing speed limits and issuing more tickets.

    The problem is when everyone is driving the same speed, at the speed limit because everyone sees this cop, and that same cop suddenly appears behind me to pull me over. THAN tells me I was going 79mph. He wasn’t even looking up when I passed him. And I was in the middle lane.

    He pretty much just picked someone out randomly for a ticket.

    This was on 85/Union Ave here in Campbell, CA. where its 65mph on the highway.

    So this illegal cop crap is happening everywhere.

  19. don says:

    Tyler, your misinformed, Speed limits are not laws, so they cannot by definition be broken, and you cannot get rid of them simple by voting.
    They are set artificially low to make money under the guise of saving lives, just as seat belt tickets are. Anyone who has been a LEO or city employee knows this first hand.

    You can however gather a large number of constituents and go to town and county council meetings to voice your opinions, especially in an election year.

    Whe is the last time you sat in on your city council meetings>

  20. don says:

    @otg…I dont ever see cops doing anything either. Because we have given up our rights to defend ourselves we have to watch most cops do absolutely nothing to prevent crime, since they cannot do it by pure logic, and after the crime they are as worthless as tits on a boar hog.

    I would be happy if every cop went to hell in a handbasket. They are a drain on the economy and actually violate more civil rights then they ever protect. Protect and serve?…yeah protect each others illegal activities and serve their own greed and small men complexes.

    By the way I have taught Police force on force programs for many PD’s since the late seventies just to be able to beat them down and have them thank me for it afterwards……yes,,,,cops ARE that stupid.

  21. don says:

    Suzanne Denbow,,,the last post was for you , not OTG!

    you must be married to a cop huh?…lol couldn’t do any better huh?

  22. Suzanne Denbow says:

    @Don – tsk, tsk, tsk. -1 for assuming I’m married, and -2 for assuming I’m married to a cop – as if I’d ever get hitched to a guy in a profession notorious for its divorce rates and infidelity. No, Don, I’m not married to a cop, I’m not currently nor have I ever dated a cop, and aside from the guy next door who housesits for me when I go out of town, I don’t even personally know any cops.

    I am, however, a big fan of the zero tolerance approach towards dumbass behavior. And yeah, I’ll admit, a lot of cops power trip like crazy but bloody hell, so would I if I was handed a badge, a gun, and the authority to screw with little fuck-ups who think they’re above the law.

  23. Christopher Tomkins says:

    I knew it, it’s just a way to get more money off us. I’ve got a tracking system from FleetM8 in the UK, only time i’ll get a speeding fine is when i’ve really been speeding. I’ve got evidence of what my real speed is all the time with FleetM8, and the court have to take it……. HE HE HE…. i feel un-touchable….. LOL

    http://www.fleetm8.com

  24. Avi says:

    Yes. Thats truth revealed!! but its just HALF TRUTH Told!!!
    The MAJOR reason is..generating revenue for mushrooming insurance business!!!!

    YES!! trafic police takes just few hundred bucks and for 5-7years these insurance firms hammer you :).. thats the real sad part!!!!

    My tickets:
    1. high beam.. wow.. does anyone ever get ticket for high beam?? i am paying insurance for last 3 years for High beam ticket!!
    2. U-turn : first day in ohio..i got the ticket.. Reason: u-turn is illegal in Ohio..!! how am i supposed too know? but i am paying insurance
    3. speeding: yes the only time i think i was at fault!! and i am happy this time it was my mistake at least!

    What trafic cops got: $500 in total.. what insurance got?? $2000
    every year……now can you see.. it’s not just Finance/Banks…all corporate is greedy here these days!!!
    It’s time these insurance firms should get some bashing!!!!!

  25. mat says:

    Right its called extortion and racketering under the color of law

  26. Tricky Dicky says:

    Yes it certainly is all about money. If you decide to fight a ticket, you have just three choices from the magistrate. Admit responsibility and you pay the fine, get the points and up your insurance cost. Deny responsibility and you are forced to come back to court and have a formal hearing in front of a real judge. Costs can go up and in that case you had better bring an attorney. But if you admit responsibility with an explanation, it is likely that the policeman can downgrade the offense to something without points and one that will not affect your insurance, but you will pay as much or perhpas more that what you were ticketed for. It’s a moneymaking scam. As tax revenues have gone down, municipalities have compensated by making the police give tickets for anything and everything and then they make it impossible to get any justice in court if you diagree with the trumped up charges. And the fines have increases significantly too. I guess if tax revenues can’t pay for the police, they make the drivers they entrap cover the payroll.

  27. Steven says:

    I noticed someone saying something about only if you play the game. The only way to not get a speeding ticket isn’t not to speed. I got pulled over by an Oakland Count Officer who said I was going 58 in a 45 when the fact of the matter is I was going under 45. I saw the cop turn onto the road 3/4ths of a mile before he even noticed I was on the road. (I have very good site) Why on earth would I even think of going faster then 45 knowing he is there? Fact of the matter is I wasn’t, he pulled me over because he gaged the distance of my car coming up to a car that pulled out of a subdivision, and assumed I was speeding, called it in and said he clocked me.

    I even went to the extent of getting my speedometer checked to make sure it was right.

    Even though I asked for proof that I was speeding and he failed to show proof by saying he didnt lock it in, I still get the $100 fine.

    This is something that we the people need to fight against and stop letting the Governor push these cops into bringing in more cash with tickets. Thats what its all about…. the money, not the fact of people doing things wrong or right but money.

  28. Ronin says:

    Yeah … and I will not be surprised if there will be more of the Oakland, CA “routine traffice stop” incident. These are hard times … citizens are being pushed to their limits.

  29. art miller says:

    The police who are here to serve and protect are really here to serve and collect from our pocket books. Our justice system is a joke and as a lawyer once told me you will get as much justice as you can afford. The police are nothing but a group of thugs who extort money from the public under the law with a gun and badge. If you are speeding the police do not have to show you proof, this opens the door for greed and abuse of power. How do i know this you may ask? I have 2 sons that are police officers who informed me this is the way things are done. So who will the judge believe in a court of law? I wouldnt bet a penny on the average joe this game is fixed and the odds are you will be the loser.

  30. Amanda says:

    Bravo, Suzanne. But the point of these comments should be to criticize the article, not the opinions. (Ahem, Don.) And the article failed to mention anything about dating cops. Policemen are necessary, as long as there are stupid people. And as long as there are stupid people, there will be laws restricting the intelligent public, which the policemen uphold, as their job. Whether or not they do their job well is an opinion.

  31. carol says:

    I have gotten 2 tickets in 2 weeks. One for a brand new no turn on red sign that was put up the day before, and one for turning left in a contruction area that was so bogged down with traffic that i would have been a hour late for a doctors appt. Both times i begged for a break. NO.
    Everyone i know has gotten a ticket or even 2 in the last month.
    I AM PISSED.
    Why should my tax dollars go to pay for these ticket masters sitting around all day entraping good citizens!!??!
    We are all human so were definitly going to make errors. These pigs are a waste of my tax dollars, and dont they all understand they have lost the respect of their communitys? There a joke. They dont help you when you need it, everything is civil to them. I want these entrapers LAYED OFF. they are nothing more than slimy civil workers with a gun. Our tax dollars will go down and we will get less tickets, and the city workers will have to take a pay cut just like all of us has. WHEN DID BEING A POLICE OFFICER TURN INTO THIS??? WE NEED TO FIGHT AGAISNT THIS CRAP!

  32. [...] Originally Posted by zs lsx He's right, you know. It really is all about the money. And here's how it really breaks down: Michigan Police Chiefs Admit Speeding Tickets Are About Money [...]

  33. Joe says:

    Livonia Police are like vultures. preying on innocent drivers to keep their jobs. They are instructed to write certain no .o tickets every day. these vampires waining on you, just watch out.

  34. Rita says:

    PLEASE, PLEASE someone check out Novi, and the excessive amount of tickets they issue people every year… My ONLY two bogus tickets for “speeding” have come from Novi, MI. I live on the border of Novi, and Farmington Hils, and you would not believe the number of people they ticket on a daily basis. Be careful while driving through Novi- for they will pull you over/invent reasons to ticket you $$$$$$$$