Drivers in Washington, D.C. have racked up about $1.3 billion in unpaid traffic tickets since 2000, but the city lacks the resources to effectively pursue the dangerous drivers roaming the city’s streets, according to The Washington Post.
Fatal traffic accidents have been on the rise in Washington in recent years, and some of these incidents have been caused by drivers who had thousands in unpaid traffic tickets for repeatedly speeding and running red lights, according to the Post’s analysis of public records. The city’s only options for enforcement against repeat offenders are vehicle booting and towing on public roads.
In March, a driver who had 49 unpaid tickets with fines totaling $17,280 fled a traffic stop and drove into another vehicle, killing all three occupants, according to The Post.
“D.C. had data showing that this driver was an extreme risk to life and welfare,” Ryan Calder, an assistant professor of environmental health and policy at Virginia Tech who studies traffic collisions, told the Post. “And then, very predictably, the driver of the car annihilated three people in a horrific collision. And that was the very predictable outcome of this breakdown in governance.”
The city’s top unpaid ticket offender owes $186,000 from 339 tickets, according to the Post. In total, the city is missing payments for more than 6.2 million tickets totaling $1.3 billion in fines and penalties; more than 2,100 vehicles have at least 40 unpaid tickets and about 1,200 are linked to fines of more than $20,000 from the past five years.
The D.C. police union has blamed local politicians for underfunding the police, and hundreds of officers have left the force in recent years.
D.C.’s rising traffic fatalities are part of a national trend. Nationwide, traffic deaths hit a 20-year high in 2022.
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