Almost half a billion dollars earmarked for infrastructure is being diverted to fund enforcement quotas. As reported by TheNewspaper.com, since new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) procedures went into effect in February, $450 million in grants has been made available to local police departments under the guise of safety. However, under terms of the grants they must be part of a “data driven enforcement effort” which is a polite way of saying ticket quotas. The major violations targeted are, seat belt, impaired driving, and speeding.
The money to fund these ticket blitzes comes from the federal fuel tax. The purpose of the fuel tax is to provide revenue for the Highway Trust Fund, which is supposed to pay for and maintain the nations surface infrastructure (there is also a smaller Mass Transit Fund). The Highway Trust Fund has struggled mightily with solvency issues in recent years, since the fuel tax has not been raised since 1993, nor has it been indexed for inflation. With diminishing returns it is easy to see why our infrastructure is crumbling. To divert needed monies away from infrastructure and into heavy handed enforcement only serves to make the roads less safe. To quote National Motorists Association (NMA) President Gary Biller, “When the incentives for highway enforcement programs are revenue-based, traffic safety improvements and the rights of motorists often become secondary considerations”. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) seemingly backs up Mr. Biller’s claim. Late in 2017 they issued a warning to Rhode Island police chiefs after emails were uncovered detailing how to create a quota system to receive the federal grant money.
This hits truckers who travel through multiple jurisdictions particularly hard. Truckers pay the federal fuel tax as well as IFTA and IRP to ensure that the states they travel through receive money as well. Not only are the roads that the tax is supposed to pay for in disrepair, but every jurisdiction is looking for a way to rev up enforcement to maximize revenue, which falls disproportionately on the trucking industry.