Pandemic slashes number of NC speeding tickets – meaning less revenue for public services

North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The coronavirus pandemic has meant less traffic on North Carolina’s roads.

That means around 60,000 fewer speeding tickets issued by the North Carolina State Highway Patrol – a 20 perent decrease.

That’s a major revenue blow.  

“These dollars do have impacts on the ability of the agency to have people out in the community delivering core public services, it impacts the ability of the state to maintain infrastructure, to make sure roads are kept up to date particularly in winter,” said Alexandra Sirota, director of the Budget and Tax Center for the North Carolina Justice Center.

“There was a significant part of the year where traffic jams were a thing of the past,” said First Sgt. Christopher Knox with the Highway Patrol.  

DUIs issued by troopers are down more than 13 percent compared to last year.

“We would have to contribute a lot of that to the fact that people who do consume are consuming at home or they’re not going out to places, the bars aren’t open or they have a limited time that they’re open,” said Knox.

CBS 17 wanted to know how fewer tickets translate into less income for the state.

But, we could find no financial accounting that shows a breakdown by agency and type of citation.

That includes an inquiry with the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts.

“I think it is a difficult thing to assess what all the trends are that are happening if you don’t have detailed data so, we’ve long advocated for an understanding of how the dollars flow. I think broadly speaking, the idea of pooling our resources through the general fund through multiple revenue sources is an important one,” said Sirota.

Sirota said they haven’t had a comprehensive budget in over a year and that means they are taking a piece meal approach based on data that isn’t always complete.

“And that’s a huge problem for whether or not we’re really stewarding the tax dollars of every North Carolinian towards the biggest impact towards the best impact for well being,” said Sirota.

North Carolina collected $6.75 billion in fees and fines in the last fiscal year.

That makes the state 6th in the country relying on that revenue stream.

Traffic tickets are only a slice of that income and COVID-19 has created a massive hole.

Sirota said we’re too fee dependent and lowering the corporate tax rate by more than 35 percent in the last few years doesn’t help.  

“It really is an important role for our tax code to play in making sure we’re not dependent on individual behaviors on potentially dangerous behaviors, that we can instead fund the fundamental infrastructure for well-being in this state.”

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