Call it the “Rumpelstiltskin effect.” The District processed 2,719,600 parking and traffic tickets during Fiscal Year 2018. In a “straw-into-gold” metamorphosis, those citations carried a mind-boggling value of a third of a billion dollars or $324,531,271. The District sure must have a knack for spinning out parking and traffic tickets. Maybe it is the other way around. Drivers either can’t help themselves because they are creatures of habit, or perhaps they are gluttons for punishment who persistently love paying hundreds of millions of dollars in parking and photo-enforced ticket fines each year. Skeptics wonder if the city’s “increasingly aggressive ticketing is designed to boost revenue?”
How matter how you explain it, the District issues and processes an average of 2.7 million parking, photo enforcement and moving violation tickets year after year without fail. Ticket totals increased in the city during the past fiscal year, which ended September 30, 2018. The District Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is responsible for processing and adjudicating parking and traffic tickets.
All told, the District issued 1,417,001 parking tickets during FY 2018 for violations ranging from illegally parking at a meter to failure to deposit payment at a meter. That compares to 1,227,525 photo citations issued by photo enforcement cameras in FY 2018, and 75,074 moving violation citations handed down during the budget cycle by law enforcement officers on patrol in cruisers.
According to District DMV Adjudication Caseload Statistics, the agency processed a total of 2,687,525 citations during FY 2017, compared to 2,760,482 citations during FY 2016. That means in the period from FY 2016 to FY 2018, the District issued 8,167,607 parking and traffic citations. Collectively, those parking and traffic citations were valued at just shy of a billion dollars, or $930,473,968, tabulates AAA Mid-Atlantic. It is an impressive take over the course of three budget cycles.
“In the years to come, District ticket revenue could increase substantially in the wake of the draconian fine regime and the tougher penalties for traffic infractions that went into effect on January 4, 2019. In some cases, certain fines doubled,” noted John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Enough of this ‘patronizing nonsense’ and dribble that goes ‘if you don’t want the ticket, don’t commit the parking or traffic offense.’ With the increased fines, the District is burying some motorists under an avalanche of debt and imposing an ‘undue burden on those who cannot afford to pay.’”
The DMV Adjudication Caseload Statistics will be entered into the public record this morning during the Committee on Transportation and the Environment’s performance oversight hearing for the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV). The hearing begins at 11 a.m., Thursday, February 28, 2019 in Room 123 of the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington D.C. 20004. The powerful Committee on Transportation & the Environment is chaired by Councilmember Mary M. Cheh.
Despite the District’s ticket writing prowess and its finesse in raking in near-record, or record-breaking revenue totals, it is still attempting to track down ticket scofflaws. Nearly one-third of the citations, 32 percent, issued last year went unpaid. Think of it this way. Of the 2,719,600 parking and traffic tickets processed by the District during FY 2018, motorists failed or refused to pay 871,453 citations.
Deadbeat motorists were $139,281,885 in arrears due to unpaid red-light camera tickets, overdue speed camera tickets, outstanding parking tickets, and unsettled citations for moving violations in FY 18, notes AAA Mid-Atlantic. Motorists were on the lam for 806,234 overdue citations in FY 2017 carrying a default amount of $133,169,945. They were in hiding for 777,224 outstanding citations in FY 2016 worth $125,605,692. Keep in mind, District parking and traffic tickets double if they aren’t paid in 30 days, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic. On top of that, additional collection fees are added to tickets that go unpaid for more than three months. To wit: the District’s Central Collection Unit (CCU) adds a so-called “CCU fee” that is “assessed at a rate of 20 percent of the outstanding balance due. The fee is added to all DMV tickets over 90 days old.”
Failure to pay District-issued parking, photo enforcement and moving violation tickets can lead to license and registration suspensions for the working poor. The District is also garnishing city residents’ District tax refunds. In addition to booting and towing ticket scofflaws, the city is also using other means to collect ticket debt. The District is “siccing” debt collectors after them. If the ticket fine becomes a “debt in collection” it could damage or tarnish your credit score, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic. Dunning debt collectors raked in $35,174,148 from ticket scofflaws and deadbeat motorists during FY 2018. They collected that undue sum from 219,703 ticketed motorists, who had an average ticket debt of $161 apiece. Debt collectors brought in approximately $127 million in outstanding debts, fines and fees, such as overdue parking and traffic ticket fines and ticket debt, owed to the District Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) from FY 2014 through FY 2017, reports the Chief Financial Officer.
Unpaid tickets? The District Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) established the Central Collection Unit (CCU) to collect certain delinquent debts owed to the District DMV, including overdue red-light camera tickets, delinquent speed camera ticket debts, unpaid parking tickets, and outstanding citations stemming from tickets for moving violations. The CCU forewarns: “it does not get involved in the validity of DMV fines, fees or penalties.” The OCFO adds: “If you still have time to contest a DMV ticket, the CCU will not get involved in contestable tickets.” In fact, the Distract warns: “If DC DMV does not receive the ticket fine payment within 30 calendar days from the date the ticket was issued (or mailed), a penalty will be assessed. The penalty is the same amount as the ticket fine, meaning your ticket payment will double.”
AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to 59 million members nationwide and nearly 80,000 members in the District of Columbia. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. AAA is a non-stock, non-profit corporation working on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app (AAA.com/mobile) for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit www.AAA.com.