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John Townsend
Public Relations Manager, DC
O: (202) 481-6820 (ext. 4462108)
C: (202) 253-2171
jtownsend@aaamidatlantic.com

WASHINGTON, D. C. (Tuesday, February 9, 2021) ––The overall number of traffic and parking tickets plunged – with the notable exceptions of photo tickets – in the nation’s capital during Fiscal Year 2020. The city’s fiscal year was upended by the coronavirus pandemic, a public health emergency, and decreased economic activity, resulting from unprecedented efforts to contain and checkmate the COVID-19 pandemic. It put a major dent in the city’s coffers, as total ticket revenue collapsed amid the pandemic-beset budget cycle.

 

The new findings will be revealed in a report presented today in a D.C. Council Committee oversight hearing.

 

Remarkably, that occurred despite the fact the District issued slightly over 1.3 million photo-tickets, a tally comprised mostly of speed camera tickets. Yet the revenue generated by the parking and traffic tickets processed by the District dropped to a quarter of a billion dollars in fiscal 2020. Or to be exact, it dipped to $262 million. It’s a downward slope of $144 million, compared to $376 million in ticket revenue in FY 2019.

 

Over the span of the three previous budget cycles or fiscal years, the District government issued more than a billion dollars in traffic and parking tickets, as in fiscal years 2017, 2018 and 2019. Yet the total percentage point declivity in ticket revenue in FY20 was higher than previously estimated, as the number of commuting trips in and around the District and into and out the nation’s capital decreased. There is one exception to the rule. With the onset of the pandemic, “speeding violations spiked 47.4 percent in March” alone.  The number of photo-tickets issued by the District kept pace with previous records. The District issued a total array of 1,306,689 photo-tickets, such as speed camera citations and red light camera tickets, in FY20.

 

“The fact is the District issued only 4,051 fewer photo-tickets to motorists than it did in FY19. It comprises a trifle percentage decrease of 0.3%, versus FY19. By April, traffic volume reached its nadir, as it dropped 50.5 percent, across the region, including in the District.  However, speeding incidents headed in the opposite direction. Traffic deaths and traffic crashes took a turn for the worse,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Although there were fewer vehicles on the roadways in the District in springtime due to the ongoing pandemic crisis, speeding also became dangerously endemic, as did red-light running in the District. As a result, the number of traffic infractions, including reckless speeding, captured by the automated traffic enforcement devices did not level off, as once feared.”

 

Total FY 20/21 District DMV Adjudication Caseload Statistics

Citation Category

FY 2019

FY 2020

FY 2021

(through 12/31/20)

Photo Citations

1,310,740

1,306,689

340,683

Parking Citations

1,467,876

837,899

59,690

Moving Violations

91,194

53,929

9,237

 

Tragically, traffic deaths spiked in the District in calendar year 2020, despite the fact the year saw fewer cars and less traffic, as non-essential workers stayed home. Yet 36 persons lost their lives in traffic crashes in Washington in 2020, according to Metropolitan Police Department (MPDC) data. That deathly toll represented a 33 percent upsurge in the loss of life in traffic crashes over 2019, when 27 souls perished on District streets and roads. Such deaths are 100 percent preventable, counsels AAA Mid-Atlantic. “About five times as many drivers as pedestrians were injured in crashes in 2020,” an analysis shows. Amid the pandemic, Washington, D.C. implemented its Slow Streets Initiative. It restricts specific roads to local traffic and reduces the speed limit to 15 mph. The initiative covers more than 26 miles of streets. In May, speed limits were reduced from 25 mph to 20 mph on some “local roads” in the District. Traffic volume increased in the District in the evolution from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of reopening. Prior to the pandemic onslaught, two million vehicle trips transpired each day within the city. The number of car trips in the capital dropped amid the lockdown.

 

Meanwhile, the number of parking tickets meted out by meter mavens subsided precipitously during FY 2020, as did the moving violation tickets handed down by police officers in traffic stops. The drop-off ensued in April, after the implementation of quarantine orders in the District of Columbia. Peripatetic parking enforcement officers issued nearly 630,000 fewer parking citations in FY20, than they handed down in FY19. In the wake of curbside pickups and take-out orders, the number of parking tickets plummeted almost 43% one budget cycle to another, from 1,467,876 parking infractions in FY19, to 837,899 such citations in FY20.

 

The dramatic decrease in parking citations betokens reduced economy economic activity in downtown Washington, which boasts 167,000 office workers, during the onset of pandemic, as stay-at-home-orders yielded fewer commuters, less parking and less traffic in the central business district, and throughout the nation’s capital. Before the pandemic, the District’s “daytime population increased by 79 percent during the day, swelling the population from around 600,000 residents to over 1 million people” every workday, reports the U.S. Census Bureau. It slumped in the initial stages of COVID-19 guidelines and stay-at-home orders.

 

Pre-pandemic, sixty percent of all traffic stops in Washington, D.C., such as the stopping of a car that an officer saw speeding, resulted in a ticket. Moving violations spiked “38.1 percent in March.” As the sum of vehicle trips dwindled in the city, police officers slapped fewer motorists with moving violation tickets during Fiscal Year 2020, as the number of such citations sagged by 37,265 tickets. It comprises a 40.8 percentage point nose-dive in such tickets issued for traffic-related vehicle violations. All told 53,929 motorists were ticketed for moving violations in FY20. This compares to 91,194 ticketed drivers in the city in FY 19. A likely factor in all of this: “reduced police presence on roadways during the initial stages of the pandemic.”

 

In the wake of multiple massive social justice protests in the District following the death of George Floyd, most Metropolitan Police Department officers were detailed to cover the marches and protests. During summer’s all-hands-on-deck protocols. So, the police gave out fewer tickets. Yet in the summer of 2019, for example,  eight out of ten, or eighty percent, of traffic stops conducted in the District by police officers “resulted in immediate enforcement action: 60 percent ended with a traffic ticket, and 20 percent in an arrest.”

That’s according to the Metropolitan Police Department’s Stop Data Report (July 22-August 18, 2019).Seventy percent of persons stopped during that reporting period were Black, while 15 percent were white.” However, of the stop resulting in tickets in the same period, “Blacks comprised 61 percent of those on the receiving end of the citation, Whites 20%, Hispanics 8%, Asians 3% and others 8%.”

 

Total FY 20/21 District DMV Adjudication Caseload Statistics

Total Citations

FY 2019

FY 2020

FY 2021

(thru 12/31/20)

Total Citations Processed

2,869,810

2,198,517

409,610

Value of Processed Tickets

$375,916,124

$261,825,852

$46,414,297

                                                                     NOTE: Revenue is not certified by OCFO, but is out of DMV's ticket processing database.

 

All-in-all, excepting for near-record photo-ticket totals, the District of Columbia issued 671,293 fewer traffic citations and parking tickets in Fiscal Year 2020 than in FY 2019. That means it stands to rake in $144,090,272 less in potential ticket revenue. Again, the drop-off was triggered by the pandemic shutdown, and a summer of social unrest, resulting in fewer cars on roadways, less traffic, fewer tickets, and less revenue.

Essential services remained open in the nation’s capital, and traffic rebounded in the District toward the end of Fiscal Year 2020. In the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2021, nearly 410,000 motorists were ticketed for traffic and parking violations, and they were on the receiving end of $46.4 million in ticket fines and fees, through the three-month period, ending December 31, 2020. All told, as pandemic protocols were launched, and as the commuter-adjusted daytime population dropped in the capital, the DC DMV processed 2,198,517 traffic and parking tickets during Fiscal Year 2020, which ended September 31, 2020. For ticketed motorists, those 2.1 million tickets carried a dollar and fine value of $261,825,852 in penalties and fees. As in years and budget cycles past, the bulk of that revenue was generated by automated traffic enforcement (ATE) tickets.

 

In contrast, a record–breaking number of parking and traffic tickets were issued to motorists in the District during FY 2019. That’s when approximately 2,869,810 traffic and parking citations were issued to drivers in the District of Columbia. That wasn’t the only record shattered in fiscal 2019. As proof, the value of processed citations in FY19 spiked to $375,916,124 in the District, another record-breaking haul. The drop in ticket output and ticket revenue was previously forecast in the traffic ticket fines and penalties revenue and estimates in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer’s (OCFO) report issued September 30, 2020.

 

While the District’s total ticket output tumbled 23.3 percent from FY 2019 to FY 2020, the face value of its processed tickets dropped by nearly a third, or 30.3 percent, tabulates AAA Mid-Atlantic. That’s according to performance oversight documents the District Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is slated to provide to the District Council’s Committee on Transportation & the Environment. The key Committee’s virtual platform DMV budget oversight hearing is scheduled for noon today, Tuesday, February 9, 2021.

 

The District hopes to deploy a dragnet for ticket scofflaws. Prior to the pandemic, “only 30 percent of the vehicles stopped and issued tickets for traffic violations were registered in the District; 70 percent were registered in another state,” according to 2019 stop data from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

 

Ticket Scofflaws By Jurisdiction FY 2019-FY 2021 (As of January 5, 2020)

Unpaid Citations

FY 2019

FY 2020

FY 2021 (as of 12/31/20)

Number of Unpaid Tickets

971,913

811,792

231,244

Value of Unpaid Citations

$177,387,958

$118,379,255

$26,872,524

District Residents Unpaid Tickets And Value of Fines Owed:

208,897

$34,364,288

165,454

$22,409,102

51,028

$5,661,809

Maryland Residents Unpaid Tickets And Value of Fines Owed

389,146

$74,298,443

329,327

$49,409,264

96,082

$11,209,390

Virginia Residents Unpaid Tickets And Value of Fines Owed:

246,723

$44,745,936

218,601

$32,035,005

54,781

$6,513,352

Residents of Other Places Unpaid Tickets and Value of Fines Owed:

127,147

$23,979,291

98,410

$14,525,884

29,353

$3,487,973

NOTE: Revenue is not certified by OCFO, but is out of DMV's ticket processing database.

   

Even so, 811,792 motorists emerged as ticket scofflaws in the District in FY 2020. They are on the hook for $118,379,255 in unpaid ticket debt in FY20, compared to $177,387,958, a staggering sum, in FY 19. The “Vision Zero Enhancement Omnibus Amendment Act of 2020” became effective December 23, 2020. It contains a clause calling for traffic and parking violation reciprocity agreements with Virginia and Maryland.

Maryland motorists skipped out on paying 329,327 tickets valued at $49,409,264 during FY 2020. In contrast, 218,601 motorists licensed in Virginia owe the city coffers $32 million in unpaid tickets and fines, while 165,454 District residents must pay their city $22.4 million in ticket debt racked up in FY20 alone. Curiously, District traffic stop data reveal that only 30 percent of the vehicles stopped in the District by Police officers are registered in the District. In contrast, 37 percent of the vehicles pulled over in the District during a traffic stop were registered in Maryland, plus 21% held Virginia tags, and 12% were registered in other states.

 

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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 60 million members nationwide and nearly 82,000 members in the District of Columbia.  AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years.  The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit  http://aaa.com

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