Friday, July 15, 2016

Stay Outta Speedtrap, South Carolina

I don’t speed, especially here in South Carolina, with all its tiny towns, and homophobic hamlets, and bigoted ‘burgs; I don’t want to end up like the Ricardo’s and Mertz’s did when they were travelling from New York City to Hollywood and spend a night in jail in some wee town somewhere … out there. So I don’t speed; I “cruise control.”

Speeding is bad, especially if your lead foot takes you through Turbeville, South Carolina, on Route 378 toward Myrtle Beach. Turbeville is a speed trap of epic proportions, which is why there is a class action lawsuit against the town.

There are just 804 people living in Turbeville, but the town has raked in over a million dollars a year for the last thirteen years from speeders.

And here’s where it gets a bit sticky: the annual budget to keep this town of 800 up and running is $1.4 million, of which $1.1 comes from those traffic fines. And that’s a good thing because, according to town records, it costs a cool million to keep the police department in action … writing those tickets to raise the million to pay for themselves. Those million dollars a year for the police comes to about $1,250 for every single person in Turbeville. By contrast Columbia, with an $18 million-a-year police budget, spends about $130 a resident.

All of which has lead to that class action lawsuit seeking to force Turbeville to nullify its “town safety” ordinance which allows Turbeville to write traffic tickets with higher fines than state traffic tickets and to keep a majority of the money collected from those tickets.  The suit also demands that Turbeville return millions of dollars to the tens of thousands of drivers who have received municipal tickets since the local ordinance was passed in 2003.

And here’s how Turbeville gets away with it …. As in most states, when you are ticketed you get “points” on your driver’s license and an increase in insurance costs; and nobody likes that. But, in Turbeville, if you pay the fine, which, again, is often much higher than a state fine, the ticket is not reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles or the driver’s insurance company, so no points, no higher insurance rates; all that means is that ticketed driver’s are more apt to pay the fines and avoid the points.

If, however, you opt to fight the ticket — which can carry a fine of up to $500 or 30 days in jail — the Turbeville magistrate, hired by the town council, converts the ticket to a state citation, thereby lowering the possibility that the town ordinance will be challenged.

And speeding violations in Turbeville are not even called that; the town ordinance doesn’t list speeding as a crime and drivers stopped for speeding are cited for “careless operation” of a vehicle; the officer notes something like “55/35” on the ticket to indicate that the defendant was driving 20 miles an hour over the speed limit.

Now, in South Carolina, each town pays a $5 fee for each ticket they issue to the state treasurer’s office and, according to the Treasurer’s records, from December 2014 to November 2015, Turbeville pad $12,215, which translates to 2,443 tickets a year, or an average of 203 tickets a month or almost seven tickets a day.

By comparison, Camden, South Carolina — where yours truly resides — with a population of 7,085 — nearly nine times greater than Turbeville — pays just $6,155 to the state; that amounts to 1,231 tickets a year, an average of 103 a month or 3 tickets per day.

During the prime beach going months of May through August, Turbeville’s monthly average of tickets jumps to 245; that amounts to more than one ticket for every Turbeville resident during the vacation season.

The lesson here: again, in South Carolina, it’s not the heat it’s the stupidity and … don’t speed … or "carelessly operate" a vehicle ... at least in Turbeville.

Cruise control your way through the state.


the dogs' mother said...

ak! rather tricksy aren't they?

anne marie in philly said...

WTF? sounds VERY crooked to me!

krayolakris said...

The one & only speeding ticket I've ever rec'd was in South Carolina...Rock Hill. SC was also the 1st state I had ever noticed that the local police officers drove unmarked Cameros, Volvos, etc.

Raybeard said...

One of those strange instances of something popping into ones mind out of nowhere for no apparent reason when, during my early morning jog two hours ago (nowadays more walk than jog), 'I Love Lucy' made an appearance - and now your 3rd line above tells me why it did. Spooky!

Helen Lashbrook said...

Or just maybe the speed guns are set wrong? You could be doing 36 and get hauled in for doing 56?

Mitchell is Moving said...

Oh, I'll just take that off my list of places for cruising.