VPR's Traffic Ticket Investigation: Methodology

Apr 24, 2018

VPR launched an investigation into the issuing of traffic tickets around Vermont, specifically looking at which towns issued the greatest total fines and number of tickets.

Read the full investigative piece here.

Data sources:

Things to know about our data:

  • This data does not account for tickets which were neither paid nor disputed in traffic court.
  • Our data consists of two reports — one provided directly from the Judicial Bureau, another provided by the Judicial Bureau via the Department of Finance and Management. The Department of Finance and Management data includes annual payments to towns for a small subset of traffic tickets written under 23 VSA 1081, including violations on roads with the speed limit set at 50-mph. According to the Judicial Bureau, ticket-by-ticket data is not collected for those violations.  Consequently, the "payments to municipalities" data is comprehensive, while other counts and sums omit violations of 23 VSA 1081.* 
  • Traffic tickets are most often issued for speeding violations. They are also issued for a long list of violations including “using portable electronic device,” “following too closely,” and “failing to carry a license.” Our data includes payments for all traffic violations. See page 6 of the Judicial Bureau’s penalty waivers document for a complete list. 
  • Our data represents calendar year 2017, while municipalities calculate their revenue and expenses on a fiscal year.

Additionally, some municipalities are present in one report and not in another:

In the case of Old Bennington Village, we suspect the Judiciary’s report includes the village in its account for the town of Bennington. In other cases, tickets were negligible. In yet other cases, we believe the data from Finance and Management may include Marijuana charges and Animal control fines not included in our accounting from the Judiciary. These sums were marginal.

Process:

The Judicial Bureau provided us with records of the 25,749 traffic tickets paid or adjudicated in 2017. We used this to count the number of tickets paid and the sum the total amount of penalties issued.

The Department of Finance and Management provided us with records of all payments made by the state to municipalities for traffic fines issued in 2017. We narrowed this down to payments made by the Judiciary for monthly “civil fines” and “annual ticket payments,” and summed the payments for each town. 

We then compiled 2017 traffic ticket data into a table you can search and sort:

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Thanks to Noah Villamarin-Cutter for his assistance scraping and presenting the data.

* EDITOR'S NOTE: This methodology was updated on 4/26/2018 to more clearly explain the omission of traffic tickets issued under 23 VSA 1081 from the Judicial Bureau data.

This report comes from VPR's investigative reporting desk. VPR is committed to investigative journalism as part of its mission of public service. Have a tip for the investigative reporting desk? Send an email to VPR reporter/editor Emily Corwin