Out-Of-State Drivers are Just The Worst … At Paying Their NYC Summonses

Oh those Jersey drivers! Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Oh those Jersey drivers! Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Who said New Yorkers weren’t generous?

Drivers of cars with out-of-state plates owe the city tens of millions of dollars on more than 3.5 million unpaid parking and moving violation summonses issued by police officers, traffic enforcement agents and city speed- and red-light cameras since 2016 alone, a Streetsblog investigation of city data has discovered.

The tickets slapped on out-of-state cars from 2016 through 2020 represent roughly 23 percent of all tickets during that period — but 30 percent of the out-of-state car tickets have not been paid. By comparison, drivers of cars with New York plates racked up 78 percent of all the tickets, but only 14 percent of those tickets are unpaid.

As such, out-of-state cars represent 38 percent of all the unpaid tickets issued during that period.

These are an important findings, given that city-issued tickets starting trending upward after 2016, when just over 100 school-zone speed-camera systems kicked in. And ticket-writing jumped again in 2019, when the city started deploying more systems (chart below):

The percentage of unpaid tickets by drivers with out-of-state plates is rising. Chart: Streetsblog based on city data
The percentage of unpaid tickets by drivers with out-of-state plates is rising. Chart: Streetsblog based on city data

Marco Conner DiAquoi of Transportation Alternatives was stunned by how many out-of-state-plated drivers are not only being ticketed, but also are not paying said tickets. He called for more coordinated effort among law enforcement.

“These findings speak to the need for executive leadership, from Gov. Hochul and the state DMV in particular, to collaborate between the different states,” he said, citing Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania as “the most frequent out-of-state plates” he sees on the streets of New York.

The findings come on the heels of a different Streetsblog investigation revealing that out-of-state-plated cars are involved in what appears to be a disproportionate number of crashes and fatal crashes. According to Jesse Coburn’s story, cars, buses, motorcycles and other vehicles with out-of-state plates are involved in roughly 17 percent crashes in the city since 2019. And an even higher portion of cars involved in fatal city crashes — 20 percent — had non-New York plates.

Of course, there’s no telling how many cars with out-of-state plates are being driven on city streets at any moment, but it is certainly not the 20 percent that are involved in fatal crashes nor the 22 percent share of parking and moving violation tickets issued by the city since 2016. (No agency seems to track how many out-of-state-plated cars there are in the city in the first place.)

It’s well documented that many of the out-of-state-registered cars that are parked on city streets do, in fact, belong to New York City residents who are engaged in some form of insurance fraud (insurance is far cheaper outside of New York City). Experts say it stands to reason that someone who is engaging in one form of fraud — insurance — would be more likely to engage in the fraud of not paying one’s parking tickets. (Residents often complain of North Carolina-, Florida- and Pennsylvania-plated cars on “their” streets.)

For an interactive version of this chart, click here. Data: NYC Open Data
For an interactive version of this chart, click here. Data: NYC Open Data

When it comes to which out-of-state drivers are the worst at getting tickets, well, it’s clearly those with the pale yellow plates from the Garden State. But other state “residents” are worse at paying for the damage and danger they do. Here is how the numbers break down for just 2020:

  • New Jersey cars got 1,248,354 total tickets, but 438,220 — or 35 percent — remain unpaid.
  • Connecticut cars got 184,881 total tickets, but 64,492 — also 35 percent — remain unpaid.
  • Pennsylvania cars got 389,932 total tickets, but 156,092 — or 40 percent — remain unpaid.
  • Texas cars got 456,738 total tickets, but 158,208 — or 34 percent — remain unpaid.
  • Florida cars got a surprising 237,626 total tickets, but “only” 68,059 — or about 29 percent — remain unpaid.
  • North Carolina cars (not shown on the chart above) got 75,411 total tickets, but 30,126 — again 40 percent — remain unpaid.

As bad as those states are, cars with plates from all the other states, Canadian provinces and the District of Columbia racked up 608,218 camera and parking summonses in 2020 — and 53.5 percent (or 325,904) remain unpaid.

It’s unclear if the city Department of Finance has a more difficult time collecting fines from people who register their cars out of state because such summonses are mailed to a fake or inactive address. (The agency declined to comment for this story.)

But it is a fact that some out-of-state-plated cars not only belong to New Yorkers, but also rack up tens of thousands of dollars in parking and moving violation tickets yet are not impounded by the Sheriff. One such car, a Pennsylvania-plated Honda that cops say belongs to Tyrik Mott, racked up close to 100 red-light and speed-camera tickets, plus thousands of dollars in unpaid parking tickets, before it slammed into a 3-month-old baby girl in Clinton Hill on Sept. 11.

The Department of Finance previously told Streetsblog that the Sheriff’s Department could not “find” Mott’s car on the street, despite it popping up on speed cameras repeatedly, and being ticketed roughly once a month every month since 2017.

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Transportation Alternatives today released a troubling report on the state of local traffic enforcement, and called on Mayor Bloomberg to establish a new office tasked with reining in dangerous drivers and reducing fatalities and injuries on city streets. "Executive Order: A Mayoral Strategy for Traffic Safety" [PDF], compiled from official data along with testimony from […]