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Traffic Fees – what are the impacts on financial security

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Creating systems to help low-income residents pay their traffic fees can improve community health and address local racial disparities. Traffic fines exacerbate financial insecurity for low-income and low-wealth residents, which negatively impacts their health. A recent report from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights (LCCR), a Get Healthy SMC partner, describes how traffic fines harm low-income families and communities of color in California, which has some of the highest fees in the country.  According to LCCR’s analysis of local law enforcement data, black and Latinx* residents are arrested for not paying traffic or infraction fines at significantly higher rates than white and Asian residents in San Mateo County. Black, Latinx, and drivers of other races and ethnicities make up over 70% of County jail bookings for failure to pay arrests, while white and Asian drivers make up less than 30% of these bookings. A new statewide rule addresses this issue by requiring courts to establish procedures for determining a defendant’s ability to pay the traffic citation. Solano County developed a model “ability to pay” system, which reduces traffic fines for low-income residents and allows them to set up payment plans. The County of San Mateo Superior Court’s website has more information on local financial hardship determinations.

*Get Healthy uses this gender-neutral word to be inclusive of all residents that are of Latin American descent

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