Has DMV Relapsed Into Its Old Habit of Ripping Off Cyclists?

Photo: Rob Foran
Photo: Rob Foran

Four years after the Department of Motor Vehicles was caught systematically overcharging cyclists who received traffic tickets, the attorney who brought the scandal to light thinks the agency might be making the same mistakes again.

When police ticket people on bicycles, they’re supposed to code the violation differently than a motor vehicle infraction. Driving violations include an $88 surcharge and, potentially, points on the license. Biking violations are always exempt from both.

But for years, DMV appended the extra $88 and license points to cyclists’ fines. Only after attorney Steve Vaccaro revealed the pattern of excessive penalties did DMV correct its practice.

Now Vaccaro suspects that DMV may have relapsed. A cyclist recently showed Vaccaro (whose firm — full disclosure — is a Streetsblog sponsor) the fees for red light violations he received while biking. Each infraction carries the $88 surcharge and license points that by law only apply to motorists.


It’s just one case so far, but Vaccaro points out that NYPD recently digitized its process of filling out traffic tickets, and the transition could have disrupted the fix DMV instituted four years ago. It wouldn’t be the first time NYPD and DMV put a system in place where something gets lost in translation between the agencies, to the detriment of cyclists.

That’s the hypothesis. And if history is any guide, we can’t count on NYPD and DMV to own up to ripping off people who bike. The proof will have to come from cyclists who get overcharged.

If you were wrongly charged by DMV, the evidence won’t be on your ticket but on the agency’s website. When you log in to pay a fine for a bike violation, the columns for “mandatory surcharge” and “driver violation points” should be blank. If they’re not, you’ve been ripped off by the state.

To ascertain if DMV is repeating its old mistakes, cyclists who’ve been erroneously assessed the surcharge and license points should take a screenshot of their records on the DMV website (it should look like the images in this post) and email it to info@vaccaroandwhite.com.