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Posted at 4:00 PM ET, 04/27/2010

Stats show ticket adjudication is working fine

By David Alpert

Most of this morning's link roundups took note of Bill Myers's story in the Examiner that three of every five challenged traffic tickets got overturned in D.C.

The knee-jerk AAA quote (that's the only kind of quote they give) says, "Something is wrong with the system." But is there really something wrong? It's possible, but the data don't show it.

For example, 7 percent of parking tickets get challenged, and of those, 40 percent get overturned. That means that less than 3 percent of all parking tickets that are written are overturned. Does that seem so problematic?

It shouldn't be zero, since sometimes ticket writers make mistakes, and it shouldn't be super high, since we hope ticket writers don't make all that many mistakes.

People decide whether to challenge their tickets based on whether they think they have a good case. If about a third of those who challenge turn out to be right, but few people challenge, that actually makes a lot of sense.

There's another important nugget in the Examiner data: Automated camera tickets get challenged less often (only 3 percent of total tickets), and also overturned less often (28 percent of challenges). In other words, cameras work: they make fewer mistakes and those they catch admit more often that they were breaking the law.

David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By David Alpert  | April 27, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, Local blog network, transportation  
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It appears that D.C. isn't the only city where drivers who appeal tickets are walking away scot-free.

Here are some examples:

* In Los Angeles, more than 124,000 tickets were issued to innocent drivers amounting to nearly $6 million in tickets that were dismissed after being fought and won. (Source: LA Times)

* Drivers ticketed in Boston had tickets dismissed more than 60% of the time. (Source: Boston Globe)

* Last year, Chicago courts dismissed about 75% of tickets (in a three month period) after hearing officers ruled that drivers were not liable or the ticket contained errors. (Source: Chicago Tribune)

* New York City drivers are finding it harder to get tickets dismissed since the city introduced a settlement program. Still, 22% percent of challengers had tickets dismissed in 2008. (Source: The NY Times)

So, obviously there is an issue with not only the ticketing system in the District, but in cities nationwide. This is a widespread problem, as most drivers are discovering, no matter where they park.

Kristin Nevels
AAA Mid-Atlantic, Public & Government Affairs

Posted by: krisnevels | April 28, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

It would be interesting to see the data re. the states in which ticketed (parking, speeding, red light) vehicles are registered.

Posted by: PracticalIndependent | April 28, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

Very interesting stats from Kristin.

One thing to consider and it is BIG...
many people do not have the time to go to court. How do you take a whole day off from work to try to get out of a ticket? Unless it is a very big ticket/boot/tow combination of fines, a large majority of drivers will just pay the fine.

As Kristin said, this is a widespread problem, but who is bothering to address it? I have found just a few stories over the past years where towns are addressing abuses. It is sad for motorists and in this world of ours today a real hardship since getting ticketed and towed can easily add up to 1000.00 when considering a person has to earn the several hundred dollar fine (after tax money), take an additional day off from work, and often a cab to get to the pound. Parking fines really hurt and like many tolls, is becoming ridiculous.

John Staniszewski
Research and Development

Posted by: TicketTrapdotCom | April 28, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

While Mr. Alpert finds limits on the data used by AAA, his own stats don't tell a complete story. People do not decide whether to challenge a "mistaken" parking ticket solely based on whether they have a good cause. For many people taking a half day off work to challenge a ticket does not make economic sense, and merely sending in evidence does not guarantee a just result. In addition, prevailing in such a challenge does not mean the same "mistake" will not be repeated. In Mount Pleasant, the first block of Mount Pleasant Street from Park road is not marked as one requiring the multi-parking space meter, yet tickets are routinely given there - even though successful challenges based on improper signs occurred months ago - and the signs remain incorrect. I doubt our situation is unique.

Posted by: rstvincent | May 2, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

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