For at least 30 years, a Missoula city ordinance that governs the cost of traffic violations has remained unchanged. Driving in a reckless manner garnered the offender a $65 ticket. Drivers with bad plates would be out $15. A ticket for speeding cost $2.50 for every mile in excess of the speed limit up to 20 mph over.
Missoula’s Administration and Finance Committee is reviewing an ordinance that would, in many cases, double the fines posted in the ordinance. Missoula Police Chief Bob Weaver isn’t expecting anyone to raise a stink about the jump.
“I’m sure the citizens will want to see higher fines,” he says.
In fact, he says, the number one complaint the department receives is traffic enforcement: Citizens don’t like their neighbors speeding or cruising through red lights.
A lot of the speeding, says Sgt. Shawn Paul, occurs in neighborhoods and on side streets—25 mph zones. When congestion allows it, he says, drivers also speed along Reserve.
The proposed cost of speeding would double to $5 for each mile in excess of the speed limit. City Attorney Jim Nugent says there’s no formula for calculating the jump—the proposed increase is simply a starting point for the City Council to consider.
There has been, he says, “no incentive to not speed, because it’s so cheap a fine.” The costs haven’t even been adjusted for inflation.
Since last year, the police department has had five officers on duty in the Middle East, says Weaver, and the number of tickets issued was “considerably less” than average—50 to 70 percent less, he says. This year, Weaver says, “We’ve written twice as many tickets.”