AAA: 1 in 4 D.C. parking tickets went unpaid last year

WASHINGTON — One out of every four traffic and parking tickets issued in the District last fiscal year went unpaid. That’s $85 million worth, up from $61 million the previous fiscal year.

The figures were submitted last month to the D.C. Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment.

“The District of Columbia is optimistic that most people will eventually pay up, but we don’t think so,” AAA Mid-Atlantic’s John Townsend tells WTOP.

“We think that once they’re on the lam, they’re likely to stay on the lam and that’s bad news for the motorists and bad news for the District.”

Townsend says a large number of those unpaid tickets, 42 percent were issued to Maryland drivers, and Marylanders aren’t paying them because they don’t have to.

“If you get a ticket in the District, it’s not reported to the DMV in the state of Maryland,” says Townsend.

Virginia drivers were liable for 21 percent of unpaid tickets, and D.C. residents are on the hook for 20.9 percent.

Townsend says he thinks for many people, ignoring D.C. tickets is a form of protest against what some consider a commuter tax.

But it’s not a good idea.

If you live in the city and have an outstanding D.C. ticket, the money can be taken out of your tax refund. If you live elsewhere and don’t resolve old tickets, it could eventually hurt your credit score.

“If you get a ticket, the wisest thing to do is either fight it right away, or to pay it. What you don’t want to do is leave the ticket unpaid because it can come back to haunt you,” Townsend says.

“Those persons who fight moving violation tickets have an astonishing success rate, but only a fraction of people who get these tickets fight them,” he adds.

For this current fiscal year, AAA Mid-Atlantic says District DMV records indicate “delinquent motorists have not paid 337,354 past due citations … as of Jan. 31, 2016,” with a dollar value of more than $46 million.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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