DC tops $324M in traffic tickets; Md. leaves most unpaid

A close-up of the new speed cameras that will be rolled out across the District. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

WASHINGTON — Drivers on D.C. roads racked up $324 million in tickets last year, and Maryland drivers ended the year with the most money unpaid.

Between Sept. 30, 2017 and Sept. 30, 2018, more than 1 million tickets were issued in the District through speed and red light cameras. About 33,000 of them were dismissed after a challenge.

The D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles processed a total of 2,719,600 citations in the 2018 budget for speed and red light camera tickets, moving violations and parking tickets, according to oversight responses provided to the D.C. Council ahead of a Thursday hearing.

That is a slight increase from the preceding year, when the value of processed citations was $306,712,186.

In the first four months of the current budget year — October through January — the DMV processed 901,881 citations worth $99,758,342.

Of that, $41,068,367 was collected before the tickets were sent to collections, where $9,548 have been collected. As of the end of January, $56,800,374 remained outstanding.

In the full year that ended Sept. 30, the department collected $156,072,848 before tickets were sent to collections where $35,174,148 was collected, but $139,281,885 remained unpaid.

Overall, D.C. residents had $28,615,543 in outstanding tickets from the 2018 fiscal year. Virginia residents owed $31,512,322. Maryland residents owed $59,662,386. People with cars registered in other states owed $19,491,634.

Maryland residents had, by far, the largest value of unpaid tickets in the previous budget year and again so far in the current budget year.

Here’s the value of the tickets issued and a breakdown by jurisdiction. (Courtesy D.C. government)

The fines double for nearly half of all parking tickets, since fewer than 60 percent of drivers pay those tickets or challenge them within the first 30 days. About 85 percent of drivers pay or challenge the ticket within 60 days.

“DMV believes the current process is more than adequate for customers to be aware of receiving parking tickets,” the responses to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment said.

Drivers can sign up to get emails or texts when their cars gets tickets and when the car might be booted.

How to beat a ticket

In the last full budget year, 160,625 drivers challenged their tickets. At least 54,928, or about one in three, were successful. There were 75,371 cases still pending at the end of September.

The most common reason a ticket was dismissed was not due to an appeal, but because the District writes off any unpaid tickets that are more than 15 years old.

The most successful challenges on the merits of a ticket were the following:

  • Multiple vehicles were in a photo used to generate a camera ticket (12,585 last year);
  • The driver had a Parkmobile receipt to show he had paid for parking (7,253);
  • Residential overnight parking exemption documentation (3,767);
  • An officer did not appear to defend the ticket (3,184);
  • The image used for a photo enforcement ticket was poor (6,903).

The number of tickets successfully challenged with proof of parking payment appears to be rising this budget year, with 5,742 dismissed on those grounds in the first four months.

Thousands of tickets are written off each year because they are submitted for processing too late.

That does not include about 72,000 tickets that had adjudication requests pending for months until those requests were discovered floating in the ether in June and were only then added to hearing dockets.

The city is currently reviewing whether parking ticket adjudication should remain a responsibility of the Department of Motor Vehicles, with a report delayed until April due to “stalled agency discussions.”

At the same time, the city is considering upgrades to its 24-year-old ticket administration system and similar upgrades to its 17-year-old driver’s license record system.

Here’s a look at parking citations for 2017, 2018 and through the end of January 2019. (Courtesy D.C. government)

Here’s a look at how many cases the D.C. DMV adjudicated. (Courtesy D.C. government)

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up