Speed traps are areas where police aggressively target drivers for speeding and other minor traffic violations, in order to generate revenue from traffic tickets. Most speed traps target drivers from out of state, since those drivers are far less likely to fight back in court.
Some of the most common traffic violations include:
- Improper passing or turning
- Tinted windows
- Broken taillight
- Expired registration or inspection stickers
- Failing to signal
- Loud exhaust
- Objects dangling from the rearview window
Traffic Ticket Quotas
Traffic ticket quotas clearly warp police priorities. Instead of basing arrests or tickets on actual threats to public safety, quotas incentivize officers to rack up numbers to keep their jobs or advance their careers. But most law enforcement agencies with quota use a euphemism like “minimum standards of production” or “average benchmarks” to hide the fact that they impose a quota.
Even worse, there is a perverse institutional incentive for cities to ticket and fine as many drivers as possible. Many local governments, after all, budget how much they expect to generate in revenue from fines and fees. But since tax hikes are politically unpopular, cities instead rely on revenue from traffic tickets and other fines, a dependency that turns traffic cops into de facto tax collectors.
In addition to aggressively ticketing drivers, some cities regularly abuse their power to tow vehicles. Based on even the most minor violation, police can order a car towed and impounded. Once a car has been impounded, the city can hold it hostage. Owners then have to pay a release fee until the owner pays back everything: the fine for parking ticket and fees for towing, impounding, and release. By collecting fees for the towing and impound on top of the original traffic ticket itself,
Cities have even outsourced their towing program to private companies, which lets them keep and scrap other people’s cars. That creates a tow-and-impound racket that can be very profitable for both the local government and the private company.