Historic traffic, inflation, and debt are not the only things burdening drivers licensed by the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC). They also saw a huge spike in police enforcement for minor traffic offenses in recent years. Data exclusively obtained by media outlet, Documented showed that fines levied against TLC drivers rose 446% between 2017 and the height of the pandemic in 2020. Despite being battered financially by a downturn in ridership from Covid and the medallion crash, the city ramped up enforcement on drivers for traffic violations like running a stop sign or red light, collecting at least $2.3 million in 2021 alone.
Documented reported that the average fines issued to TLC licensed drivers increased by 285.83% between 2017 and 2021, even though the average number of drivers on the road plunged by 26.23%. In 2017, there was an average of 90,113 TLC-licensed drivers when the agency issued $606,850 in fines. In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, there were only 59,336 drivers on the road but the fines increased to $2,176,173 and continued to increase in 2021 to $2,341,408 for 66,480 drivers. In four years, the average fine per driver rose from about $7 to roughly $37.
Advocates say many drivers don’t fight tickets for fear of losing their licenses, but industry attorneys note that, in many instances, drivers can reduce or even avoid fines with legal assistance. Some industry attorneys offer free initial consultations.
The TLC admitted to Documented that it could do a better job educating drivers about their rights, but insisted that its goal is to prevent serious traffic accidents.
“Safety is the top priority for TLC, and we reject the false choice between preventing traffic violence – the victims of which are disproportionately lower income and people of color – and financially burdening hardworking drivers,” said a Spokesperson for the TLC. “We have focused on the most dangerous safety violations in an effort to ensure that drivers operate their vehicles safely for the sake of themselves, their passengers, and all New Yorkers.”