Driven by Justice
Working to REPEAL NEW YORK’S CRUEL AND COUNTERPRODUCTIVE TRAFFIC DEBT SUSPENSION LAWS
Imagine living for a year or longer without transportation to your job, your doctor, or even the grocery store.
Hundreds of thousands of low-income New Yorkers face this problem every day because they do not have enough money to pay traffic tickets. When people do not pay tickets or appear to contest them—no matter the reason—New York suspends their driver’s licenses.
Traffic debt suspensions force an impossible choice:
Stop driving and lose access to work, childcare, health care, food, and other basic necessities, or
Keep driving on a suspended license and risk criminal charges and more unaffordable fines and fees.
Because driving is so critical to daily life, 75% of suspended drivers continue to drive, risking entanglement with the criminal legal system because they have no other option to support themselves and their families.
Traffic debt suspensions don’t affect New Yorkers equally. Because black and latinx people are disproportionately stopped, ticketed, charged, and convicted, this cycle of debt and punishment especially burdens communities of color.
Between January 2016 and April 2018, New York issued nearly 1.7 million driver’s license suspensions for traffic debt.
A traffic ticket comes with a deadline to pay or appear to contest it.
New York law does not allow:
Reduced, waived, or deferred payment;
Partial payments or payment plans; or,
Community service or other alternatives.
The rationale for suspending driver’s licenses for traffic debt is to coerce people into payment. In theory, a driver’s license is so important that people will pay their tickets rather than risk suspension, or if they are already suspended, will pay their tickets to get their licenses reinstated. In practice, however, no amount of coercion can extract money from people who do not have it to give.
Nearly half of people in the U.S. do not have access to $400 in case of emergency. So, it should come as no surprise that nearly half of suspensions issued in 2016 remained in effect one year later.
New York must repeal its cruel and counterproductive traffic debt suspension laws!
Learn more about suspensions by visiting our Story Map at DrivenbyJustice.org.
Share the Story Map using #DrivenByJustice.
Traffic-Ticket Debt Can Cost Low-Income Drivers Their License, Minority Reporter
The Cost of Suspending Driver’s Licenses, Investigative Post
Legislators Propose Changes on Traffic Laws, Investigative Post
Handcuffed and Arrested for Not Paying a Traffic Ticket, The New York Times
A Changing Tide on License Suspensions, Investigative Post