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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Department of Motor Vehicles
Accountability for Traffic Ticket Surcharges


Issued: August 10, 2015
Link to full audit report 2014-S-26

Purpose
To determine whether the Department of Motor Vehicles (Department) accurately assessed, collected, accounted for, and reported all traffic ticket surcharge revenue received through its Traffic Violations Bureaus (TVBs). The audit covered the period April 1, 2012 through July 31, 2014.

Background
New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law authorizes cities with a population of 200,000 or more to adjudicate non-criminal traffic infractions through administrative tribunals to divert such high-volume non-criminal cases from the court system and free the courts to concentrate instead on the more serious cases. The Department established its TVBs to manage this administrative adjudication function. There are currently ten TVBs, eight in New York City and one each in Rochester and Buffalo; each is responsible for processing and collecting fines and traffic ticket surcharges. Unlike fines, surcharges are non-negotiable costs – preset based on the type and date of violation – that cannot be waived. However, the Vehicle and Traffic Law does impose a cap on the total amount of surcharges that can be assessed as a result of any one traffic stop or incident. During our audit period, the Department reported over $341 million in revenue collected from the TVBs, including about $147 million generated from traffic ticket surcharges.

Key Findings

  • With the exception of about $1 million in surcharge revenue that was reported twice for the same week during May 2013, the Department is consistently accounting for and reporting all traffic ticket surcharge revenue received.
  • The Department’s systems are not properly applying the statutory cap on surcharge amounts for multiple violations, resulting in an underassessment of surcharges in the event that a driver is cited for multiple incidents on the same day.
  • The Department could better use existing system data to continually improve its processes and management of the program.

Key Recommendations

  • Develop a more proactive approach to monitoring and analyzing the data management system, including conducting routine system reviews and establishing controls to ensure modifications are working as intended.
  • Analyze system and source documentation (e.g., traffic tickets) for traffic stops that resulted in multiple traffic tickets subject to the surcharge cap to identify and correct any instances where motorists were charged an incorrect surcharge.
  • Work with the Office of Information Technology Services to implement system and data changes necessary to ensure surcharges are properly and consistently applied.

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest

Office of Information Technology Services: Security and Effectiveness of Department of Motor
Vehicles’ Licensing and Registration Systems (2013-S-58)
Department of Motor Vehicles: Driver Responsibility Assessment Program (2013-S-53)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: John Buyce
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236