Why do police issue more speeding tickets than other tickets?
In a single year, police in British Columbia issued more than 163,000 speeding tickets. This represents more than three times the 46,000 tickets issued for distracted driving, while tickets for running red lights range from 30,000-40,000 per year.
This suggests that perhaps speeding is vastly more dangerous than the offences of distracted driving or running red lights. Or is it perhaps that speeders are simply easier to catch and have a better rate-of-return on ticket revenue?
The answer may surprise you.[pullquote]163,000 speeding tickets written in 2015 resulted in potentially $24.8 million in ticket revenue.[/pullquote]
Number of speeding tickets do not correlate with number of fatalities
ICBC’s latest data only goes up to 2015. That year, ICBC determined that speed was the largest contributing factor to fatal crashes and was responsible for 31% of crashes where someone died. Distracted driving was the second highest contributing factor, responsible for 30% of crashes.
In real numbers, this translates to 88 deaths attributable to speeding and 88 deaths attributable to distracted driving. Surprisingly, the category of “high-risk driving,” which includes offences such as running red lights or tailgating, actually resulted in 126 deaths – 43% more than speeding or distracted driving.
So how come law enforcement writes three to four times the number of speeding tickets as they do for distracted driving and red-light tickets? If public safety was the concern, shouldn’t police base enforcement of traffic offences according to how dangerous each offence is?
Why are the number of speeding tickets so high?
We believe most drivers who were ticketed for speeding were only marginally above the speed limit. According to ICBC statistics provided to our office, there were only 7,900 excessive speeding tickets out of the 163,000 speeding tickets issued in 2015. Most of them, 81,000 tickets, were for simply speeding on a highway where the risks of hitting a pedestrian or other vulnerable road users are much lower.
Law enforcement also have many ways to tag speeders. There are the traffic safety blitzes that happen several times a year, often involving teams of officers scanning traffic with laser or radar to catch those going too fast. Officers on the road can also constantly assess the speed of traffic around them to identify those travelling faster than the limit.
Speeding is one of those offences that are so prolific, and often involve people just going a little bit over the limit, that catching them is a relatively easy task. After all, most BC drivers are likely to have travelled a bit over the speed limit on a daily basis. But how many of those same drivers would run a red light on a daily basis?
Why aren’t there as many distracted driving tickets as speeding tickets?
Ticketing for distracted driving is much more difficult. There’s no radar gun for distracted driving. Officers have to be close enough to a driver in order to identify whether the driver they’re watching is actually using a phone, holding a phone, or have it loose in the car. Often, people are simply looking down at their lap, or resting the side of their head on their hand. An officer who wants to catch distracted drivers has to catch them in the act, often without alerting the driver of their presence. This is much harder to do by the side of the road where speed traps are often placed, and even more difficult if the officer was behind a vehicle, if the officer cannot clearly see the driver through the rear window.
What about red-light tickets?
Red-light tickets, meanwhile, are now largely the result of automated traffic cameras snapping pictures of drivers running red lights at 140 intersections across BC. Back before red-light cameras became widespread in BC, it was more common to see a police officer parked near an intersection or stop sign watching for drivers who disregard these traffic devices. And even that has its challenges. A driver who sees a police officer parked at the side of the road is much less likely to run a red light.
So are speeding tickets a cash grab, or what?
The statistics show that distracted driving and speeding are roughly equal in terms of the fatalities they cause on the roads. Deaths for “high-risk” driving, which includes running red lights, are also higher than both of the categories of speeding and distracted driving. Despite all this, the most commonly issued tickets are for speeding.
If speeders are simply that easy to catch, even though the offence may not necessarily be vastly more dangerous than distracted driving or running red lights, it would make a lot of sense from a revenue perspective to focus on speeders more than other offences.
Individual fines for traffic violations are publicly listed. The 163,000 speeding tickets reported by ICBC in 2015 resulted in potentially $24.8 million in ticket revenue. The 46,000 distracted driving tickets resulted in up to $16.9 million in ticket revenue. Meanwhile, 35,000 red-light tickets would result in just $5.8 million in ticket revenue.
What to do if you received a speeding ticket?
Speeding is a serious offence. We do not dispute this, and as BC Driving Lawyers, we urge all drivers to behave responsibly on the roads. However, we do not believe law enforcement should be focusing so much more on speeding compared to other offences, which in our view, are just as dangerous as speeding.
To do so would suggest perhaps that the relative ease of catching speeders and the revenue potential from speeding tickets are more important than public safety.
If you have received a speeding ticket in BC, give us a call at 604-608-1200. We may be able to help.