DC officials working to combat lack of traffic fine enforcement

Nearly half a million cars are eligible to be booted and towed if they were to be found in the District right now.

But data released by Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh, who also chairs the Transportation and Environmental Committee, indicates there isn’t enough to enforce tickets given to drivers.

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Just under 44,000 D.C. residents are eligible to be towed now, along with 167,000 Virginia drivers and 335,000 Maryland drivers. A car can be booted in the District if it has two unpaid fines.

The total number of staff with the Department of Public Works to handle all the boots: 6, which work in two teams.

"Six?! For the entire district? Not enough," said Jabari Douglas, a driver who’s gotten a speeding ticket in the district and paid it.

Cheh says those DPW workers are trying: they average 35-50 cars getting boots a day when they do find them. But it would take 25 years to catch up.

There are hundreds of millions of dollars of missed fine opportunity here, Cheh says, but safety is more important.

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"If we’re going to have cameras and we’re going to catch people running red lights or speeding, and they’re going to get a citation, it’s irrelevant about how we’re going to change behavior if these citations are just thrown in the trash," Cheh said.

Cheh says a collaborative, and large operation is needed to be able to enforce fines more thoroughly in the District and is already looking at ways to do that.

One key thing on her radar: reciprocity.

Currently, D.C. has a so-called ‘Clean Hands’ ordinance. That means any D.C. resident who wants to renew a D.C. license has to pay off all fines.

However, a Virginia or Maryland resident with outstanding tickets in D.C. doesn’t have to pay them off before getting their license renewed.


"We have asked the Metropolitan Washington Council on Governments to convene the three states so we all can negotiate a successful path forward on ticket reciprocity," Deputy Mayor for Operations and Infrastructure Lucinda Babers said.