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Traffic tickets can push poor drivers into poverty trap

While most North Carolina drivers dislike getting traffic tickets, individuals with low incomes are more likely to struggle with the financial burdens associated with such citations, according to a study that was conducted by an economics researcher from Princeton University. The researcher cross-referenced Florida traffic citations with individual credit report and payroll data between the years of 2011 and 2015. During that period of time, approximately 4.5 million Florida drivers were issued traffic citations, which accounted for almost one-third of the state's population of licensed drivers. Of those ticket recipients, 3.7 million were matched with anonymized credit report information.

The study found that the average Florida ticket costs around $175. In addition, each ticket is linked to an insurance premium increase of around $120. These costs were easily absorbed by drivers living in high-income areas, but drivers from poorer areas didn't fare as well. The researcher discovered that lower-income drivers experienced an increase in unpaid bills, late payments and other financial difficulties after receiving a traffic citation, which caused some of them to fall into a poverty trap.

As a result of his findings, the researcher suggested that certain ticket fines do more societal harm than good. In fact, the study found that the welfare loss caused by traffic citations is more than twice the size of the income they bring to communities.

Drivers who have received traffic tickets may want to speak with an attorney as quickly as possible. An attorney could review the situation and work to get the ticket expunged, which could eliminate any associated fines and prevent points from being added to the driver's record. This tactic could also help the driver avoid an auto insurance premium increase.

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