A disproportionate share of blacks and Latinos lose their driver's licenses because of unpaid tickets, study finds

A report out of California details yet another example of how the overuse and enforcement of municipal violations disproportionately affects people of color

The report, by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, examined U.S. Census Bureau data, records from the California Department of Motor Vehicles and information from 15 police and sheriff’s departments in the state to document by race the impact of unpaid traffic fines.

“Individuals who cannot afford to pay an infraction citation are being arrested, jailed and prosecuted, and are losing their licenses and their livelihoods,” the report said. “The communities impacted by these policies are disproportionately communities of color.”

Black drivers were found to be arrested at higher rates than whites for driving with licenses suspended because of unpaid tickets, the report said. The highest suspension rates in 2014 were found in poor neighborhoods with large percentages of black and Latino residents.

No duh.

Of course poorer sectors will be harder hit by financial penalties.


… and in California, the cost isn’t just the ‘face value’ of the fine for the offense. There are always additional charges/fees. A $100 offense can actually cost quite a bit more.

I suppose obeying the law in the first place is too difficult? Driving is a privilege, not a right. (And yes, sometimes, it can be a very expensive privilege–I have a son who is just under 18 right now, and even in a boring sedan, the monthly cost of insuring him is nearly equal to the annual cost of insuring me, and that’s with no accidents or tickets.)

Do not blame the one who enforces the law for the penalties incurred by those who chose to break the law.

I’m sure it also hits a disproportionate number of young men of any race, as compared to young women. But I don’t think anybody is looking for a remedy for that.

In today’s world, your son has a far better chance of becoming a mature driver than a poor person has of bettering their economic status…and, here’s hoping they all (your son and the poor) find the mercy and compassion they all deserve.


What?? In the land of opportunity, they can’t get out of poverty???

What is anybody supposed to do? If anybody can’t pay for traffic violations, can they possibly afford auto insurance?

Yes, good point, the last ticket I had was for a seat belt violation, about 6 years ago, in the end, it cost me about $225.

Seems like they are taking advantage of people a bit.

Plus, the goal of ANY law, traffic or otherwise, is to stop or reduce the number of crimes committed, but with traffic laws, it seems like the only goal is revenue, pretty obvious since most have not changed in decades, only the fees. If they saw these laws were not effective, surely they would change them to make them more effective, again to reduce the number of violations.

Surprisingly though, I am good friends with a city manager of a large metro in my area, I thought cops still had citation quotas, but he said they do not anymore and majority of cops hate to write traffic tickets, too much paperwork, and most are out for more important crimes.

Maybe another goal of traffic laws is public safety?

I am skeptical of “studies” like this. Throwing the race-card is overstating that it’s more probably true that all people of lower income levels probably can’t pay their fines. And, then, there’s the question of whether this group or that economic group GETS more citations than another. I think it would be very hard to do a controlled study of this, without biases.

There seems to be a lot of sensationalism in this study.

Let me give you one problem with this right away it says blacks and Latinos. Well some Latinos are black the most likely Hispanics to identiy as black are Puerto Ricans and Dominicans although most Puerto Ricans on the island identify as white. The main reason I point this out is because I live in an area with a large amount of afro panamanians and I have an ex-girlfriend who is a white Puerto Rican. I don’t have a problem with the study but this is apples and oranges you can’t really compare two things that are not alike one is defined by the US Census Bureau as an ethnic group and the other is defined by the US Census Bureau as a race. Do I believe that those that have stereotypical Latino traits get pulled over more like they may look mulatto or mestizo? Yes. It’s just a little pet peeve I hav. Nothing wrong with the study other than that I’m sure.

Actually, in most Sociological studies. Non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic blacks are separated from those who claim Hispanic heritage so that Hispanics would include both black and white Hispanics and their ethnicity takes predominance over their racial category.

Well, you promote that by minimizing the number of violations.

If that was the case, we would see them constantly reviewing the number of violations and amending the laws to make them more effective…they do this with some laws right now, like prescription drugs, certain sex crimes, trafficking in drugs, humans, etc, they are always trying to find better ways to make these laws tougher and they change them very quickly too.

So I guess they only care about our health and safety when it comes to certain things. lol

Although I dont believe the changes to the laws I listed are due to them being concerned about out health and safety, its all about money and revenue for them, court fines, seizures by police, keeping jail cells occupied longer., etc…

So what’s the solutions? Free pass for poor people?

Did this person also offer to sell you a bridge in Brooklyn?

Income-based traffic fines.

If I remember right, Switzerland has this in place. Traffic fines are based on one’s income.

I agree with you. We see these politically based arguments all the time for many problems. Are people poor because they make bad decisions or do they make bad decisions because they are poor?

I can’t afford to pay for multiple tickets, so I choose not to drive like an idiot. Besides the cost of the ticket, a record of violations raises insurance rates, and bumping into things is really hard on your car. Not paying for insurance is also expensive. It can mean criminal charges if you choose to drive without it or with a suspended license. Your job choices are also reduced if you lack transportation.

The poor are also more likely to use tobacco, drugs, and be obese. Poor choices with your health also result in bad health. Instead of blaming the people who made the bad choices and get them to make better choices, the blame is shifted to others. Then people act surprised that the poor have shorter lifespans than the rich. Is the solution to execute the rich at age 65 to promote equality? It brings new meaning the robber’s question, “Your money or your life?”

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