Virginia, my home state, is taking a big step this July in terms of levying bigger fines to make the roads safer. Some may call these new fines draconian or just another way to pick the taxpayer's pocket for more road maintenance funds, but I am going to cheer this effort wholeheartedly (and make damn sure I drive the speed limit so I don't have to fork over any cash!)
The USA Today new newspaper did a superb wrap up on Viginia's new civil charges (which ONLY apply to in-state residents, by the way) so I will repeat the guts of that story here. Overall, new penalties will now range from $750 to $3,000 and be added to existing fines and court costs.
For example, the civil penalty for going 20 mph over the speed limit will be $1,050, plus $61 in court costs and a fine that is typically about $200. A first-time drunken driver will face a $2,250 civil penalty, plus fines and court costs that typically run about $500 or more. Driving without a license? That's a mandatory $900 civil penalty, in addition to the ordinary $100 for a fine and court costs.
Virginia's new traffic penalties are expected to raise $65 million a year and are part of an effort to improve the state's roads without raising taxes, state officials say, and again, they only apply to Virginia residents, not out-of-state drivers. Virginians must pay in three installments over 26 months or lose their licenses.
I love the following quote from Lon Anderson, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, in the paper's article: "These penalties are harsh, but normal fines haven't gotten people to drive sanely. Maybe this will," adding that these new fines should help reduce the nearly 1,000 traffic deaths the state records annually.
Here's another thing all the hand wringing overlooks -- you do NOT pay a DIME if you do the following: DON'T SPEED, DON'T DRIVE DRUNK, DON'T DRIVE WITHOUT YOUR LICENSE. Hey, it gets no simpler than that -- and frankly, why should everyone pay more in taxes to fix the roads if we can ding the repeat offenders who put ALL of our lives at risk out there every day? I mean, take their money, their license and their car -- not mine.
Driving the speed limit isn't rocket science, people -- and frankly, with Virginia's highway speed limit of 65 mph, you don't NEED to drive any faster! That's plenty fast enough. So now let's see if these new penalties make our highways a safer place. Go get um, Virginia!