Regressive Taxation: New York School Zone Speed Cameras

By | October 23, 2014

In September 2014 the New York State approved speed cameras for school zones went online!

How do I know that? I read it in the newspaper but worse than that I received a Nassau County ticket for driving 35 MPH in a 25 MPH zone and was assessed a hefty $50 fine plus a $30 fee.

Looking at the time and location of the ticket, however, I realized it could not have been me who was driving.

Upon further thought it turned out that it was my car mechanic who was test driving my car after doing my New York State inspection.

I told him about these cameras and could only imagine how many other customers of his would be getting the same surprise in the mail. This is a man who owns his own business and works 12-hour days, six days a week to make a living for his family.

I ate the fine because I did not have the heart to ask him to pay it.

School Zone Speed Cameras

These speed zones are typically only in force on days school is in session and only between the hours of 7:00 AM and 6:00 PM enforcing a 25 MPH speed limit.

In a statement concerning school zones that didn’t really need to be made, Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said that “The last thing you want to worry about is a car speeding by and potentially endangering the lives of children.”

I doubt that anyone would disagree with that thought but why stop there?

Why not place cameras in neighborhoods where it is even more likely that a child will run out into the street to get a soccer ball or try and cross the street when a parent may be distracted?

Could it be that beyond the safety issue this is an attempt by cash-strapped municipalities to raise revenue by going after the low-hanging fruit of speeding violations?

Not that going faster than the posted speed limit isn’t wrong, but I doubt there are many among us who aren’t guilty of this at one time or another.

So in a world where a 25 MPH speed limit is not very difficult to breach regardless of whether the driver is in a car or a truck, what segment of society is going to be hurt the most by this law that to most observers seems to be nothing more than a government money grab?

If in Nassau County the fine is $50 and the fee $30 no matter what, then the answer is that lower income individuals and families will be hit the hardest. For that reason, to me these cameras appear to be little more than another regressive tax.

A regressive tax is ‘a tax that takes a larger percentage from low-income people than from high-income people. A regressive tax is generally a tax that is applied uniformly. This means that it hits lower-income individuals harder.‘ (Source)

Using a non-scientific assumption that lower-income and higher-income people are on the road approximately the same amount of time and have similar driving habits, how can this method for cash-strapped cities and towns to raise money be anything but regressive?

Conclusion

While slowing drivers down in neighborhoods and in school zones is an excellent goal, there must be a better or more fair way to achieve it!

I am open to any suggestions!

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Written by Michael Haltman, President of Hallmark Abstract Service, New York.

HAS is a provider of title insurance in New York State for residential and commercial real estate transactions specializing in the areas of New York City, Long Island and Westchester.

And remember that although your attorney will likely recommend a title insurance provider, you always have the right to choose your own title company (click here to learn more)!

If you have any questions you can reach Michael by email at mhaltman@hallmarkabstractllc.com.

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