A statewide program to encourage drivers to pay off old traffic tickets by drastically reducing fines appears to be working.
Los Angeles Superior Court alone collected nearly $3 million in outstanding fines in just over two months and 30,000 licenses were restored in Los Angeles through mid-December, according to a court spokesman on Thursday.
The California traffic ticket amnesty program launched in October offers discounts of either 50 or 80 percent on unpaid traffic tickets that were due before Jan. 1, 2013. The discounts are based on income — those with lower income get deeper discounts.
The program also restores suspended driver's licenses for anyone who is on a plan to pay down outstanding ticket fines, whether they were issued before 2013 or not. Previously, licenses were only restored once all fees were paid in full.
As of Dec. 18, L.A. Superior Court reports:
259,591 ticket amnesty calls have been handled.
29,050 applications have been filed for ticket amnesty or ticket payment programs to qualify for license restoration.
77,796 traffic citations have been resolved.
$2,873,330 in delinquent fines have been collected.
28,848 suspended licenses reinstated.
Prior to the launch of the program, nearly 4 million Californians had their driver's licenses suspended due to unpaid traffic fines, which disproportionately affected the poor, according to a report co-authored by the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
"Oftentimes, people lost their jobs or they couldn't get a job," said Michael Herald, a legislative advocate with the center who helped draft the ticket amnesty legislation.
He's pleased with what he calls the "robust response" to the program, but he hopes to see more changes to the traffic ticketing system.
"Is the use of driver's license suspensions really appropriate in this situation?" he asked.
The state raised ticket fines during years of budget deficits, but this year had a surplus.
Herald suggests getting a printout of your driving record from the DMV to bring with you when you apply.