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Fees, Penalties Nearly Quadruple Traffic Ticket Costs For Calif. Drivers

LOS ANGELES ( — The cost of a traffic citation in Southern California and statewide has risen dramatically over the last decade, according to state records.

KNX 1070's Jon Baird reports even common infractions such as running a red light can cost drivers around $500 or more with fees and penalties.

Fees, Penalties Nearly Quadruple Traffic Ticket Costs For Calif. Drivers

While base fines for traffic offenses have remained relatively steady over the past two decades, assessments like $20 for emergency medical services, $60 for traffic school, and another $50 for court construction have nearly quadrupled ticket costs since 1993, according to the Judicial Council of California.

A red light infraction — which cost $103 in 1993 and $340 in 2003 — is now $490 for California drivers, while rolling through a stop sign will cost $238, nearly double the $130 fee from 10 years ago.

Tickets for drivers caught speeding at 15 miles per hour over the speed limit have soared to $238, nearly eight times their cost in 1993, according to Judicial Council.

Much of the sharp rise in fines is attributed to tacked-on fees known as penalty assessments, which are set by state lawmakers in Sacramento. Revenue from such fees is typically earmarked for a wide variety of projects from criminal investigations to court construction, according to Judicial Council.

As fees inch higher, more working-class drivers who are unable to pay up are going to court to challenge tickets, which in turn is clogging up a court system already hampered by layoffs and closures statewide.

One Southland driver filling up his tank said the fees are excessive in the face of steadily climbing gas prices.

"They wanna suck everything out of us, man," he said. "They're gonna get you one way or another."

Despite any potential public outrage, lawmakers are unlikely to reverse course on the penalty assessments after a 2006 report (PDF) by the California Research Bureau showed traffic violations can net more than $500 million annually for the state.

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