‘Carrot-Stick Amnesty for Cars’

In response to your editorial (May 14), “Carrot-Stick Amnesty for Cars,” I agree that something must be done about the enormous number of people who refuse to pay their annual registration fees.

Under the present system, a citation for expired registration is, in essence, a “fix-it” ticket. People who have not paid their registration fees for, say, five years are not going to rush to the Department of Motor Vehicles to pay their fees to satisfy the whim of a police officer who happened to notice their expired tags. These people do not care about paying their registration, and they certainly do not care about “fix-it” tickets. What will happen to them anyway? They won’t be able to register their car for another year!

There is an alternative solution under the present system, however. If police officers choose, they may impound vehicles with expired registration exceeding one year. In order for owners to get their cars back, they must pay all back registration fees plus penalties, the towing charge and impound lot storage costs. Put simply, if the owners want their cars back, they had better pay up.

This alternative is very time-consuming, though, and police officers tend to take the easy way out by issuing citations. Police need incentives to enforce vehicle registration by impound; and if drivers know that by not paying their registration they face the inconvenience (and cost) of having their car impounded, they may be more willing to pay in the first place.