CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

“Red Ink in the Rear-view Mirror”

There’s an obvious reason traffic fatalities have been dropping recently, in some cases to WW II levels: People can’t afford to do as much driving, or they’re paring back the ‘non-essential’ travel, or actually doing things like carpooling (and we should note that between 196 and 2001 the average number of annual miles traveled per American climbed some 180 percent). On the heels of a previous post, there may be another reason, as this St. Louis Post Dispatch piece notes:

“Thomas A. Garrett, an assistant vice president at the St. Louis Federal Reserve, knew he deserved to be ticketed while on vacation in Pennsylvania a few years ago. But, he wondered, are traffic tickets purely about public safety? Or are other factors at play? Many motorists probably have wondered the same thing sitting on a highway shoulder waiting for a citation. But Garrett turned it into a scholarly pursuit. He decided to conduct a study.

What Garrett and a co-author discovered provides yet another reason to hate a recession.

Traffic tickets go up significantly when local government revenue falls, they found. Their study showed for the first time evidence of how “local governments behave, in part, as though traffic tickets are a revenue tool to help offset periods of fiscal distress.”

No surprise, some ticketed motorists might say. But Garrett and co-author Gary A. Wagner, an economist at the University of Arkansas Little Rock, say they confirmed a connection that seemed to exist only in isolated anecdotes. And they put a number on it: Controlling for other factors, a 1 percentage point drop in local government revenue leads to a roughly .32 percentage point increase in the number of traffic tickets in the following year, a statistically significant connection.”

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This entry was posted on Monday, January 12th, 2009 at 5:56 am and is filed under Drivers, Traffic Enforcement. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to ““Red Ink in the Rear-view Mirror””

  1. Michael Says:

    What about this possibility: During an economic downturn the traffic cops are looking for ways to prove they are doing there job. Traffic tickets are an easy to read metric.

  2. Pat Says:

    i don’t believe that officers should be seen as “productive” during their shifts by their superious based on the numbers. Many times their presence should suffice to deter crime possiblities. Even when they pull over a motorist, others will slow down or be more attentive to their speeds, therefore the effect is there. if they should write up a ticket, thats EXTRA revenue.

    the federal govt number crunchers will see that a municipality has # amount of police officers (and other govt positions), and should provide $ amount of funding. there shouldn’t be any deficit that tickets should fill in the gap with.

    sheriffs need to see metrics to believe officers are doing their jobs? are they not grown up men/women who can be trusted to do their job or something ?

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

For speaking engagement inquiries, please contact
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May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
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June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
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Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
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Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto

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ISL Engineering
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