by Kevin Allman
$234 for forgetting to turn on your headlights? It makes New Orleans traffic fines seem like a bargain. Currently you can be dinged for $100 for a red-light violation in the city, and speeding tickets are based on the number of MPH you were going at the time — capped off at $200 for going more than 20 MPH over the speed limit. There's also an "administration fee" (*koff*) of $35 per ticket. (I bet you've never seen all this written down anywhere — here's a PDF breaking down all the city's red-light camera fees and fines, which you may want to save or print out.)
Still: most of the time it ain't $234. My friend and his wife live in Southern California, where routine traffic violations can take more than $500 out of your wallet. Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times published a column this week detailing some of the insane fines out there — a rolling-right turn at a red light costs upward of $500 in Beverly Hills, for instance. A woman in the small city of Loma Linda received a $556 ticket for allegedly running a red light that she says she doesn't even remember. The fines are so high that entrepreneurs have stepped into the opportunity — a company called TicketBust guarantees to fight and beat traffic tickets for a fee of $249, which seems like a ridiculous amount ... but not compared to $556.
So I guess we should feel lucky here in New Orleans, where tickets hover around $100. But we have a few tools to keep even that from happening. Ryan Smith at The Times-Picayune keeps a running map of known traffic camera locations (of which approximately eight billion are within a half-mile of Gambit's office, explaining why everyone in that area of Mid-City drives like seniors piloting golf carts). Meanwhile, download the city's official guide to what they call the "Safety Camera Program" — and be careful out there.