Friday, April 13, 2007

Out-of-Town Speeders

At the beginning of the year, there was a test question that asked you to discuss the economics behind the decision to speed on the highway. Well, a study cited in The Atlantic Monthly reveals another aspect that should be added to the marginal analysis. They confirm what many suspect, which is that people from out-of-town get speeding tickets more often than locals.
An out-of-town driver stopped by a police officer in any given area has a 51 percent chance of getting slapped with a fine, versus 30 percent for a local, and the average fine for an out-of-towner is $5 higher.
In fact,
The poorer the town (in terms of property-tax receipts), the more likely its cops are to target drivers passing through; fines also increase the farther away drivers live, since distance makes them less likely to contest the ticket.
Any guesses at the reasons for this?
(Source: Cafe Hayek)


Andrew L said...

Police officers in small towns have certain incentives driving them in giving out traffic tickets apart from the usual ones, like encouraging safe driving and such. For one, they seek to maximize revenue for their town by giving people higher fines. Thus, people for whom the opportunity cost of contesting the ticket is high (out of towners for example) would likely get slapped with a higher fine. The further away the person lives, the higher the opportunity cost of contention, and thus the higher the fine. This also helps explain why poorer towns target drivers passing through: towns that cannot increase revenue by means such as increasing property taxes must depend more on speeding fines. Of course, police officers would not want to slap high fines on the people they live and work with; another objective of police officers is to avoiding angering voters. It is easier to fine someone who didn't vote for your sheriff than someone who did.

Anonymous said...

There are a few reasons that I can think of. Like Andrew said, small towns tend fine people primarliy from other towns because it brings revenue into that town. Also, it is important that the local sheriff does not anger his votes, so naturally he would say that they should look for out of town people so that the people who count for the vote wont be upset. Another reason could be out of sheer bitterness. Many small towns could simply dislike foreign people (a southerner in the north or vice versa). Aslo, another example I can think of are the small towns in Alabama the whole state of Georgia speeds through on the way to Destin for srping break. The local towns could simply dislike their town used as a quick bypass to the beach, and as a result could target foreigners at a greater rate.

-Nick Wellmon

Anonymous said...

Cops from small towns also, i believe, feel like they can almost take advantage of out of town drivers. They also show a little loyalty to close drivers because they live in the same community as the cops. Also, some cops in small towns think that out-of-towners could be like city slickers and that they aren't part of the local community. One example of this when i go kayaking. I have to go through a small town and if they see someone speeding with kayaks on their car, it is an automatic ticket. I dunno what it is, but they know that they are from out of town and they will always give them a ticket. A friend of fine received a ticket for going 6 miles over the speed limit in a 45 mph zone. That is ridiculous. So, the out of town drivers are more susceptible to speeding fines than locals.

-Chris Templin