Law Enforcement

Provide Training Instead of Fines

Training instead of fines gives first-time traffic offenders of certain violations—whether they are drivers, pedestrians, or bicyclists—the option of taking a safety class instead of paying a fine. Citation receivers who successfully complete the class receive an automatic or discretionary dismissal (no conviction) or a sentence of discharge (conviction entered but no fine), depending on the traffic violation.

Guidance
  • Collaborate with all program partners from the start, including: police, courts, local and state departments of transportation, health sector, and advocates
  • Create the means of tracking class participants within traffic-court records
  • Instruct law-enforcement officers and court staff on eligibility requirements and procedures for class admission, court procedure, and case disposition.
  • Distribute and encourage law-enforcement officers and court staff to provide referral slips to eligible defendants when the defendant is cited for the violation and at his or her arraignment in court
  • Instruct the citing officer to note on the citation a recommendation to either dismiss or discharge the fine upon successful completion of the safety course
  • Require advance registration (or assign course dates) to give safety-class staff enough time to confirm eligibility of attendees
  • Set class fees low enough to encourage attendance, but high enough to fund the program
Benefits
  • Increases knowledge of and compliance with traffic regulations
  • Reduces preventable crashes
  • Provides eligible first-time offenders with incentives to take a safety class
  • Improves awareness of the social and economic impacts of traffic-law violations and the benefits of walking, cycling, and using transit
Considerations
  • Loss of fine revenue from dismissed or discharged citations
  • Time and resource commitment from safety class staff
  • Resource and financial requirements for a tracking system to coordinate class participants and court records
  • Translation services or multilingual instructors to reach non-English-speakers
Where to Use It
  • Local
  • State—dependent upon programs working with circuit and municipal courts and statewide statutes to authorize court and police referrals to traffic-education classes as well as indemnify traffic-education classes from litigation
Professional Consensus
  • A comparative study about seat belt education programs is endorsed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The study is relevant to Share the Road Safety Class (SRSC) because both use “highly visible enforcement” with education to change driving behavior and attitudes
Examples
  • Despite more than 300 requests nationwide for program materials, only Portland, OR, runs a training-instead-of-fines program

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.