Aug 16, 2023 - News

Town Talker: D.C.'s VIP drivers rack up speeding tickets

Illustration of a car windshield with a lot of parking tickets stuffed under the wipers.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Cars bearing D.C.'s coveted VIP license plates have racked up at least $38,000 in speeding and parking fines over the past several years, per Axios' search of city records.

Why it matters: The bumper status symbol — think plates in the single to triple digits — is handed out by the mayor and D.C. Council members.

Zoom in: D.C. plate 363 has notched $3,750 in fines, according to my search of the DMV's payment database in late July. One ticket was for going 21-25mph over in a 25mph zone on Branch Avenue in Southeast.

  • Tag 146 was cited for $2,580 in violations.
  • And numero 322 belongs to a "vehicle that is currently booted or towed." Its tab — $1,240 — runs back to 2020.
  • The lowest plate on the hook for fines — Tag 8 — owed $80.

How it works: To catch the scofflaws, I inputted tag numbers 1 through 500 into the database. And found 11 plates that owed at least $1,000 each.

  • It's worth noting that some of the tickets were pending challenges, while others were labeled "paid or ineligible for adjudication." (Anyone who has contested a parking ticket knows that process can last a while.)

Be smart: The tags are functionally useless other than for bragging rights. Their owners are apparently a city secret — my public records request came back redacted. (City Paper had better luck a few years ago.) But the lower your number, the tighter you must be with the mayor.

  • Proximity to power yields exclusive plate designs, too, ranging over the years from cherry blossoms to Bowser's "We Are Washington, D.C." logo.

Flashback: Bowser bestowed tag 420 on Adam Eidinger in 2015, after he led the campaign to legalize marijuana.

State of play: A vehicle is eligible to be booted if it has two or more parking and/or photo enforcement tickets that are more than 60 days old.

  • But D.C. has struggled to boot tens of thousands of eligible cars, as NBC4 reported in May.

Unsolicited design suggestion: A "How am I driving?" hotline stamped on the reserved-number plates.

✍🏼 Humblebrag: In seven years of driving, zero speed cam tickets. It can be done! Town Talker is a weekly column on local politics and power. If you want to save me from carpel tunnel and engineer a bot to auto-track tickets tied to the powerful and famous, drop me a line: [email protected].

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