Traffic Violations – and Nonprofit Funding – on a Decline During the Pandemic
By Jonathan Blecher on February 18, 2021
Less Traffic Tickets Means Less Funding for Florida Nonprofits
As coronavirus cases started to rise across the country, government officials and health professionals urged people everywhere to limit unnecessary travel and stay home when possible. Americans heeded these warnings, and Florida drivers committed fewer traffic violations because of it. However, while safer roads are a welcome benefit, it comes at a cost.
Portions of court fees and fines are used to fund a variety of government operations, from environmental conservation efforts to crime victim compensation. The drop in tickets has hurt groups that depend on these sources of revenue, especially Epilepsy Florida.
Epilepsy Florida is a nonprofit organization that helps individuals with epilepsy get the medical care they need when they have no other means to receive it. The foundation offers comprehensive care, financial aid for medication costs, and diagnostic testing including EEGs, MRIs, and blood testing. In order to provide this crucial assistance, the group relies heavily on the state – specifically its drivers.
The nonprofit gets its money through two main sources: the general Florida revenue pool and the Epilepsy Trust Fund. The Epilepsy Trust Fund is funded primarily by tickets issued for failure to wear seatbelts, with $5 from each seatbelt ticket being donated to the cause.
Seatbelt infractions were a secondary offense when the reserve was created. This meant that, if a driver was stopped for another infraction, like speeding, and they weren’t wearing their seatbelt, they could be given a ticket for failing to buckle up and for speeding. They couldn’t, however, be stopped only for being unbuckled. At the time, this $5 contribution per seatbelt ticket generated around $1.2 million annually for the fund, reaching $1.4 million at its highest.
Seatbelts are now considered a primary offense, meaning that a driver could be pulled over for driving unbuckled, even if they are following all other rules of the road. This change has led to a decrease in unbuckled drivers, and with it, a decrease in available funds for Epilepsy Florida.
With fewer seatbelt infractions – or tickets at all, thanks to the pandemic – the Epilepsy Trust Fund now consists of around $250,000.
Epilepsy Florida is just one of the nonprofits doing significant work for our community while lacking a reliable source of revenue. These nonprofits and the individuals they support should not have to hope for traffic incidents to spike again in order to stay afloat. The issue is not a quick fix, and will require extensive changes to decades-old protocols