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For as long as police officers have been handing out traffic tickets, the debate about their purpose as well as their effect has swirled: are they an effective deterrent to bad driving behaviors, as proponents claim, or are they a mainly a rationalization for municipal, county and state government money-making, as their opponents suggest?

Part of the reason why the debate has been ongoing as long as it has may have been due to the lack of any empirical data,  other than dollar amounts collected from traffic fines,  to definitively support either argument.

But a recent study by the Harvard Kennedy School may have finally given one side of the debate a decided edge. According to the findings of the study, issuing more traffic tickets does indeed have a direct and measurable effect in reducing the frequency of car crashes.

The study found that for roughly each four-percent increase in the number of traffic tickets, the incidence of auto accidents decreases by about one percent. The study also found a side benefit in the decrease of non-fatal injuries attributable to traffic accidents.

The results of the study may come as bad news for opponents of New York City's stepped-up efforts to ticket motorists, either through increased police activity or by the use of traffic cameras. The city government now has a more persuasive argument to make supporting these activities, and the revenue boost to the city's coffers from writing more tickets will be a welcome bonus.

This is not to say, however, that when officers write more traffic tickets that every ticket will be a good ticket. Police officers may still make mistakes, the equipment that they use may still be faulty, and there will remain other reasons to challenge traffic tickets.

In fact it may be arguable that as New York City and other cities use the issuance of more traffic tickets as a safety rationale, more of those tickets may be questionable. 

If you have been issued a traffic ticket for a moving violation or any other infraction that you believe is unfair or erroneous, you may still want to consult with a law firm that knows how to argue on your behalf to see if it is possible to have the underlying charges dropped or reduced.

Source: The Washington Post, "Report: More traffic tickets, fewer crashes," Ashley Halsey Ill, Oct.1, 2014

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