The reasons are in dispute, but the trend is clear: The California Highway Patrol is handing out more traffic citations than it did a few years ago, and that has generated tens of millions of dollars in new revenue for state and local government.
As the state and cities wrestled with shrinking revenue and growing budget gaps, the California Highway Patrol issued about 200,000 more traffic citations in 2009 than it did two years before.
Sacramento Superior Court, meanwhile, processed about 37,000 more traffic filings last year than in 2006 – a 16 percent increase. Local police departments, the county Sheriff's Department and the CHP gave out those tickets.
Driver advocates say that such growth in traffic enforcement is happening all over the country and that the timing isn't coincidental. They contend that state and local governments nationwide have been raising revenue by issuing more traffic citations.
CHP and other police officials respond that their sole concern is safety, as some departments dispatch more officers to the streets.
What's clear is that the growing enforcement has generated millions of dollars more revenue for government.
With the average fine costing as much as $250 and rising, the increase in CHP tickets produced as much as $50 million over two years. That money went to state and local courts, crime labs and other purposes.
"We were never directed to issue more tickets," said CHP spokesman Sgt. Adrian Quintero. "We don't write citations just to generate revenue. The whole issue for us is to make sure people are obeying the traffic laws and they get from point A to point B in a safe manner."
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