Bill reduces traffic ticket fine for low-income drivers

Posted at 5:43 PM, Apr 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-22 17:43:20-04

Cash in hand, Rayetta Calderon's waiting to pay the fine for a speeding ticket she was issued near Delaware Park.

The fee is $150.

The problem is the 60-year-old from Youngstown is on a fixed income. “Right now, I'm working two jobs Monday thru Friday and an extra job on Saturdays just to make ends meet,” she said. “I've had to borrow money just to pay this ticket,” she added.

South Buffalo Assemblyman Pat Burke is looking to ease the burden for driver's like Calderon. He's sponsoring the “Traffic Ticket Relief Act,” a bill that would allow a judge to reduce the fine for low-income drivers and pay it in installments. Burke's bill doesn't set an income cap. Instead, he said it would be at the judge's discretion. “They're the ones that are going to dive into these. It will be on a case by case basis,” he said.

Critics said the bill would undermine a system put in place to help enforce traffic laws.

Reporter Ali Touhey: Don't you think the fine is there to create a hardship, so people don't speed again?
Burke: Hardship varies based on your income and person. So, if that's the case, a millionaire might as well go around speeding and committing all sorts of traffic violations because it's not a hardship for them. It's a real hardship for someone with modest income and means.

For first time offender Rayetta Calderon, she knows that firsthand. That's why she supports the proposal. “That would be much easier because right now I'm paying out of my paycheck, and all of my bills are coming up and it makes it really hard to get through the month.”

Right now, the bill is before the Assembly's Transportation Committee. It's also a one house bill, meaning it doesn't exist in the Senate. That would need to happen for the measure to pass.