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12/6/2007Federal Gas Tax Money Fuels Ticket Quotas Nationwide
Law enforcement agencies across the country are encouraged to write tickets with prizes paid for by federal gas tax dollars.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA) diverts federal gas tax revenue to offer incentives for local police to increase the number of traffic tickets written. In South Carolina, for example, the state police on Tuesday presented six new, fully-equipped police cruisers to local agencies with the best traffic citation performance. A NHTSA grant paid for the Dodge Chargers as well as the other gifts and prizes offered. Although organizers assert that the incentive program is solely motivated by safety, the South Carolina celebration was held just two days after one of the state's most deadly travel weekends in recent memory. Overall this year, traffic fatalities stand at 987 this year, up from 974 in the first eleven months of 2006.
The Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) likewise participates in the NHTSA-funded National Law Enforcement Challenge. Last month, it chose to hand the departments with the most high-profile ticketing efforts either a Harley Davidson Road King motorcycle or a Dodge Magnum with a police pursuit package that includes "a HEMI engine with cold air induction and a Borla exhaust system." Local agencies work hard to earn these prizes.
"When we first announced this custom-equipped car at the Governor's Challenge event in September, we had a standing-room-only crowd straining to see the pursuit vehicle," GOHS Deputy Director Spencer Moore said.
Agencies must provide National Law Enforcement Challenge Award review panels with ticket counts for their application to be complete. An agency will lose points if it fails to mention that it operates a "zero tolerance" no-warning policy. Educational efforts and new training methods can also earn rewards, but it is clear from the sampling of 2004 and 2005 winners listed below that coming up with a new way to ticket motorists in a covert fashion is the most common way to earn a department a new police cruiser:
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