35% drop in AZ traffic tickets

If ~ $250 sounds like a lot of money for a civil traffic infractions — learn where all that money goes. Most of it does NOT inure to the city which issues the ticket. Cities only get a small fraction of the ~ $250.  The rest of the money goes to state-levied “surcharges” that fund all sort of law-enforcement-related programs. This give lie to the myth that cities are getting fat off of enforcement in AZ; see revenue-from-traffic-fines for some examples, e.g. city of Phoenix generates about 1% of it’s budget from traffic fines.

Anyways, the interesting news piece today was based on stats release by the AZ Supreme Court; the overlords of traffic tickets (though apparently they can’t tell me how many 28-735 citiations have been issued; though to be fair I’ve never asked them) have released stats showing the number of traffic citations is down sharply, since peaking in 2008.

Arizona police officers in 2015 wrote 1.18 million civil traffic citations, fewer tickets than they had in a generation. The citations figure has plummeted since its apex of 1.81 million in 2008 and is 240,000 fewer than the 1.42 million tickets written in 1996, according to records provided by the Arizona Supreme Court. Criminal municipal citations, as well as DUIs, have fallen as well. Overall, fine revenue dropped roughly 21 percent from 2008 to 2015, from $145 million to $113.5 million, according to court records. — azcentral

Where do all the surcharge monies go? Some examples:

In Arizona, dozens of statewide programs are partially or fully funded by speeders, red-light runners and drunken drivers…

Beneficiaries include the Arizona Clean Elections Commission, the Department of Public Safety’s DNA Fund, and a trust for spinal and head injuries…. AZPOST, which provides training and misconduct oversight for Arizona’s police, receives 100 percent of its revenue from the Criminal Justice Enhancement Fund.

The law-enforcement-based pool is fully funded by a 47 percent surcharge tacked onto city citation fees. It divvies out its revenue to 18 different organizations that offer programs such as street-crime control projects, fingerprint ID systems and prosecutor training.

Arizona State lawmakers find/found it more convenient to jack up “surcharges” than to honestly (through taxation) fund things like police officer training (“AZPOST“). Not unlike not funding road construction reasonably, and instead leaving an over 2 decade old tax on motor fuel stagnate… doesn’t even keep up with inflation.

As the El Mirage photo enforcement thing shows, lawmakers also like to make it out that the city is fleecing the violators when it’s really the lawmakers themselves doing the fleecing. Read more about the El Mirage photo-enforcement at az-legislators-finally-ban-some-photo-enforcement.

Rate of Traffic Citations

We all know that some drivers get more tickets that others, but what does 1.18M tickets per year in Arizona boil down to, on average? Ceteris paribus warnings apply 🙂

65,045,000,000 miles driven [1] / 1,180,000 citations issues =

55,122 miles driven per citation issued.

or, 4,881,801 licensed drivers [2] / 1,180,000 =

one citations issued every 4.14 years per driver (how often do you get citations?)

We can also estimate the rate of infractions that go un-ticketed. There is a long list of infractions drivers routinely commit; casual speeding, not using signals as required, not making a complete stop at stop signs, not stopping before crossing the sidewalk when exiting driveways, not stopping before making a right turn on red, making prohibited right turn on red, etc… So if each licensed driver makes 4 trips per day and commits 4 infractions per trip (I’m feel like that’s a low estimate), there are about 29B infractions committed per year, of which only 1.18M are ticketed.

So, about 1 in every 24,000 infractions is ticketed. As a percentage that is 0.004%; or rounding to the 2nd decimal place of percent, 0.00% of infractions result in a citation.

[1] ADOT Arizona Motor Vehicle Crash Facts 2015. By comparison, in 2008 when citations peaked, it works out to (61,627 / 1.8) 34,237 miles driven per citation.

[2] statistica (year 2014 data). This also implies 13,323 miles per year per licensed driver; or 36.5 miles per day. Or about four 9-mile trips per day per driver.

[3]  Number of trips per year estimate: 4 trips per day * 4.8M drivers * 365 = 28,509,717,840. Then 29B/ 1,180,000 issued = one infraction in every 24,161 gets ticketed. As a percentage: 1/24,161 = 0.004%