Monday, October 1, 2007

Time to reform Wisconsin's costly "Point System"

If you're a Wisconsin motorist, you probably know about the "point system" where convictions for traffic violations earn demerit points and, if you accumulate 12 in one year, 18 in two or 24 in three years your license is suspended.

What you probably don't know is that the "point system" is a costly, archaic boondoggle that often has nothing to do with whether someone is a reckless or negligent driver -- the very people the point system was intended to deter.

For example, get caught speeding 10 miles over the speed limit and it's three points. But it's also three points for driving without a license or with an expired license or multiple licenses, or for failing to dim your headlamps, driving with a burned out headlight bulb, a burned out stop lamp or tail lamp and even a burned out license plate lamp!

You could be dinged two points for having excessively tinted windows.

Of course, most of these have nothing to do with whether you're a safe driver. But they are on the books and waste taxpayer money by court officials having to report convictions to the Division of Motor Vehicles and then having state employees enter them into driving records plus handle the paperwork from these citations.

Further, there are "zero point" convictions which don't rack up demerit points but are still entered onto a driving record, i.e., driving an unregistered vehicle or with expired license plates. This also costs taxpayer dollars and provides little or no useful benefit.

I'm all in favor of strict -- but fair -- traffic enforcement but assessing points for violations unrelated to dangerous driving is costly and contrary to common sense. So is keeping records of trivial "zero point" violations such as an unregistered vehicle, failure to wear a seat belt, improper license plates, littering or unnecessary use of a horn. (There are some "zero point" violations, such as failure to report an accident or falsifying an accident report, which probably should still be recorded.) There's nothing wrong with enforcing these traffic laws but the taxpayers shouldn't be penalized with the cost of unnecessary recordkeeping.

It's extreme hypocrisy for our governor and legislature to sock taxpayers with higher taxes and fees while foolishly wasting money. The "point system" should be reformed to carry out its original purpose and not unnecessarily burden Wisconsin motorists and taxpayers.

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