Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The District wants to give more motorists another boot.

The D.C. Department of Public Works has begun to boot the cars of motorists caught at least twice by cameras while speeding or running red lights and not paying the fines.

“Too many violators ignore these tickets and have not changed their dangerous driving habits as a result,” said agency Director William O. Howland Jr.

The boots - the thick metal braces clamped to tire to immobilize vehicles - were before last week only for those with at least two parking tickets.

Previously, D.C. drivers who failed to pay photo-enforcement fines could not renew their driver’s license or registration.

D.C. law states a vehicle is eligible for a boot if it has two or more tickets unpaid for more than 30 days with no request for adjudication within 60 days of issuance or that remain unpaid after the owner´s appeal rights have been exhausted.

Once the car is booted, the owner must pay the outstanding fines and a $50 fee to get the boot removed.

Critics say the change is yet another way for the District to make money rather than an cost-effective way to improve safety.

“D.C. gives out a lot of automated-enforcement tickets and at least some of them are of questionably value,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic. “D.C. just wants to pick every motorist’s pocket of every dime they can.”

The District has at least 50 red-light cameras and 11 speed cameras. Parking-ticket revenue was $66.1 million in 2006.

D.C. officials say the change is to collect too many outstanding tickets.

A total of 12,834 vehicles were boot eligible with 15,700 outstanding photo-enforcement tickets representing more than $1.8 million in fines as of the end of January, according to city.

The District began using cameras to detect motorists who run red lights in 1999. It is not the first city to boot cars that have outstanding tickets from street cameras. Wilmington, Del., had about $2.5 million in outstanding fines from red-light violations recorded by camera when it began booting in 2007.

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