The National Motorists Association recently sent a letter to Elaine Chao, the current U.S. Secretary of Transportation, seeking two changes in national transportation policy. First, they urged the Trump administration to end its support for traffic ticket quotas. Second, they asked the administration to choose a head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who is ready to "shake up the status quo."
The position of NHTSA administrator has been vacant since the Obama administration's chief resigned on Jan. 20.
Does the federal government really support traffic ticket quotas? You bet, says the NMA. And they do more than support them in the abstract -- many highway safety grants that pay a large proportion of state police overtime, are contingent upon tracking the number of tickets issued. In the view of the NMA, this pressures local law enforcement into running speed traps and get those tickets issued.
"Making funding contingent on meeting certain activity levels is a direct incentive for state and local law enforcement to implement a quota system," says the group's president. "At a time when we desperately need stronger bonds of trust and respect between the nation's 250 million licensed drivers and police agencies, the current system is only making the situation worse."
The group asked Chao, the administration's point person on transportation policy, to take the funds currently being used to run traffic ticket blitzes and redirect them toward something with a greater impact on safety.
For example, the group recommends the money be used to promote advanced driving skills training for novice drivers. Where allowed, it could be directed toward studies reevaluating the impact of posted speed limits, as opposed to efforts at encouraging a naturally uniform traffic flow. The group says such a method is a time-tested way of reducing traffic accidents.
Finally, High Visibility Enforcement and Section 402 grants, the group says, could be redirected to state road construction projects, which are desperately needed.
"The federal and state governments treat motorists like disciplinarian 'spare the rod, spoil the child' parents," says the president of the NMA, "except that motorists aren't children and there is scant evidence that the penalties inflicted by forced ticketing campaigns improve highway traffic safety."