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Toronto Traffic Tickets Decline in 2013


Speeding, distracted driving, and careless driving are common traffic tickets issued in Toronto but significantly fewer were written in 2013 than in 2012. Some people claim that police officers are protesting a hiring freeze by depriving the city of revenue it earns from traffic tickets.


According to Torstar News Service, traffic ticket paralegals were the first to notice that fewer tickets were being issued. As specialists in fighting traffic tickets, they are positioned to observe trends in law enforcement on Toronto’s roads and highways. An investigation later revealed that Toronto police issued charges under the Highway Safety Act in fewer than 300,000 cases in 2013, compared to more than 425,000 charges in 2012.


Why were fewer traffic tickets issued last year? Different sources provide different explanations. Once possibility, advanced by Councillor Michael Thompson, vice-chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, is that drivers are doing a better job of obeying traffic laws. That explanation is difficult to reconcile with the increase in traffic accident fatalities. More Toronto drivers died in motor vehicle accidents in 2013 than in any year since 2004.


Police complain that more drivers than ever are guilty of distracted driving (often resulting from dialing or texting on a mobile phone when they should be looking at the road). Those complaints are inconsistent with the claim that fewer drivers are being ticketed because motorists are driving more cautiously.


A professor of civil engineering, Said Easa, does not buy the explanation that a safety education campaign has produced better drivers. In his view, the single-year change is too drastic to attribute to the sudden development of safe driving habits. The difference is also too large to be the result of a random variation.


A more cynical explanation is that Toronto police are retaliating for a three-year hiring freeze that was imposed on the Police Department. Toronto’s budget chief, Frank Di Giorgio, suspects that police are trying to make a point:  less money for the police means less traffic enforcement and less revenue for the city. Di Giorgio estimates that Toronto will lose $6 million to $8 million that it would have earned if a typical number of traffic tickets had been issued.


If Di Giorgio is correct, drivers should expect more traffic charges to be issued in 2014. If Toronto police made a statement in 2013 by relaxing traffic enforcement, they will need to write more tickets in 2014 to replace the lost revenue the city needs to pay the large salaries that police officers often earn.


As traffic law enforcement increases in 2014, drivers will be at greater risk of receiving tickets for speeding and other traffic offenses. Expect drivers to get help from traffic ticket paralegals more often this year as Toronto officers become more vigilant in the enforcement of traffic laws.


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