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New traffic violations system may give a false sense of security

There is much to like about the new Rochester Traffic Violations Agency, but one unintended consequence may be that it lulls drivers into a false sense of security.

First, some background: The new agency has replaced the Rochester Traffic Violations Bureau. With the bureau, drivers had only two options: pay their fines or fight a charge. With the agency, drivers have the opportunity to negotiate or plead guilty to lesser charges. Authorities also must meet a higher standard, beyond a reasonable doubt, when trying to convict a driver.

The new system is a win-win on all sides. It gives drivers more flexibility and can mean fewer points on their driving records and less of an increase in insurance premiums. As residents and businesses in Rochester, the new agency saves tax dollars by keeping prosecutors from having to go through the expense of trial as often. Overall fine collections should increase as well, and hopefully, there will also be a decrease in license suspensions.

Where does the false sense of security come in?

There is a risk that drivers will not take their traffic charges seriously since they have the chance to negotiate and even plead guilty to lesser charges. For instance, they may handle matters themselves instead of getting a lawyer, which many might have done previously. This may be a big mistake. Lawyers can negotiate effectively, evaluate the merits of a plea agreement and establish a strong defense in the event the case proceeds to court.

Drivers who received a traffic ticket before April 21 must follow the rules under the bureau system. Those who received theirs after April 21 can benefit from the new way of doing things in Rochester. It is imperative to take action on a ticket no matter when it occurred because a driver’s license suspension is likely at some point if the driver does nothing.

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