From September through December 2001, New York State Police wrote 89,432 fewer tickets statewide, a 33-percent decline, than for the same period the year prior, according to an article in the New York Times. Likewise, Virginia State Police wrote 33,495 fewer tickets, an 18-percent decline, from September through December 2001. There are several reasons for this decline. One is the diversion of police officers to protect airports, government buildings, nuclear power plants, railway stations, tunnels, bridges, and landmarks from potential terrorist attacks. Another factor, cited by Stephen Levine, fleet manager for Pharmacia, is a recent New York City requirement that vehicles must have two or more occupants when crossing certain bridges and tunnels into Manhattan at certain times of the day. "This is prompting many single drivers not to make spur-of-the-moment trips into the city," said Levine. "I would say that one reason why tickets are down is because traffic is down." Fleet-Related Tickets Down 60% in New York The decline in fleet-related traffic citations in New York and Virginia, measured as a percentage of decline, was even more dramatic than those of the general public. Some fleet management and leasing companies have the ability to track traffic citations by state. For example, ARI, a fleet management company headquartered in Mt. Laurel, NJ, reported a 60-percent decline in fleet-related traffic tickets in the state of New York from September 2001 to January 2002. According to ARI, 441 tickets were issued to fleet drivers whose companies are clients of ARI. This compares to 1,061 citations for the same period in 2000/2001. "The 60-percent decline is pretty dramatic, especially when you consider that about 75 to 80 percent of the violations in New York occur in the New York City area," said Tim Delaney, manager of license and title for ARI. Most fleets, however, do not keep track of traffic violations since company drivers are responsible for paying their own traffic and parking tickets. The only time most fleet managers become aware of fleet-related tickets is when the tickets become delinquent. Henry Paetzel, fleet manager for General Mills, says that he has seen fewer unpaid violations cross his desk in recent months. Agreeing is Debbie Mize, fleet manager of Hallmark Cards, who said: "Our volume of parking tickets is down, but we don't keep records. I would think that fleet-related tickets would be proportional to the total number of tickets written." As in New York, some Virginia State Police troopers were taken off highway patrol and reassigned to protect other potential targets in the state immediately following Sept. 11. Since then, Virginia State Police troopers have been assigned to protect the Reagan and Dulles airports, two nuclear power plants, and key bridges and tunnels. In Virginia, ARI traffic citation records showed that there was a 50-percent decline in fleet-related traffic tickets between Dec. 1, 2001 and Jan. 31, 2002. However, this is not part of a nationwide trend. The decline in traffic citations seems to be confined to only New York and Virginia. The International Association of Chiefs of Police said it had no statistical data showing a drop in traffic citations in other states during this period. The Pendulum May Swing the Other Way New York City, which has the reputation of being the most aggressive ticketing entity in the country, reportedly generates more than $390 million in revenue annually from parking tickets alone and another $9.7 million in citations recorded by red-light cameras. (Other large-volume generators of traffic citations in the U.S. are New Jersey EZ Pass, Florida, and Michigan.) The bottom line is that the dramatic decline in traffic citations will mean a loss of millions of dollars in revenue for the states of Virginia and New York, and New York City, which are already experiencing revenue shortfalls due to the recession and decline in tourism. The concern voiced by some fleet managers is that once the magnitude of the decline in traffic violations revenue becomes apparent to state and municipal governments, there will be an aggressive refocusing of police resources to traffic enforcement. Let me know what you think.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet