A Georgia man was recently handed a speeding ticket that took him aback. Connor Cato was driving home through Savannah when the Georgia State Patrol clocked him cruising at 90 mph in a 55-mph zone. A ticket was expected; a fine reaching $1.4 million was not.
“‘$1.4 million,’ the lady told me on the phone. I said, ‘This might be a typo’ and she said, ‘No, sir, you either pay the amount on the ticket or you come to court on December 21 at 1:30 p.m.,’” Cato recounted to WSAV-TV. Understandably, Cato’s immediate reaction might’ve been to check if he was still in reality or some Twilight Zone of traffic enforcement.
A $1.4 million speeding ticket…seems a bit high. https://t.co/It3RK9DvUb
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) October 16, 2023
The astronomical figure, which would be more fitting for a high-profile criminal case than a traffic violation, prompted reactions of disbelief from legal professionals. Criminal defense attorney Sneh Patel noted, “I mean, I can’t imagine someone would have to pay $1.4 million for not showing up for a speeding ticket.” Patel further noted that fines for misdemeanor traffic violations in Georgia may not exceed $1,000 by statute.
The culprit behind the outrageous sum is the e-citation software used by Savannah’s local Recorder’s Court, which has been in operation since 2017. Joshua Peacock, a spokesman for Savannah’s city government, stated that this figure is a “placeholder,” automatically generated for “super speeders” — those driving more than 35 miles over the speed limit. This figure, the largest possible number the system can use, serves as a stand-in until a judge formally sets the actual fine.
While the city’s intention with this “placeholder” isn’t malicious, it drew unwanted attention. Why would software developers not choose a more straightforward message, such as “fine pending” or “fine to be determined in court,” rather than inserting a whopping $1.48 million? Recognizing the potential confusion — and likely the unsettling shock to drivers — a representative for the city acknowledged, “Recorder’s Court is working on adjusting the language in e-citations to avoid future confusion.”
It’s relieving that Mr. Cato won’t have to fork over the equivalent of a luxury mansion’s price for his speeding infraction. Still, the incident serves as a curious case study of technology’s unintended consequences, local bureaucracy, and the importance of clear communication. One can only hope that, with a touch of software tweaking, Savannah drivers in the future will be spared from such heart-stopping surprises.