Say you are driving 78 mph on the Capital Beltway and a state trooper tickets you for "reckless driving -- speeding 20 mph over." You will probably be fined $200 by the judge. But then you will receive a new, additional $1,050 fine from the Old Dominion, payable in three convenient installments. So convenient that you must pay the first one immediately, at the courthouse.
First-time drunk driver? A $300 fine from the judge and a $2,250 fee from the commonwealth.
Driving without a license? Maybe a $75 fine. Definitely a $900 fee from Virginia.
I'm all for improving the quality of life on the highways, but, DAMN!
The article points out several drawbacks to this plan, such as the dramatic burden to the local court system as now EVERY traffic offense would be fought in court, just to avoid these fines. So, on paper, it looks like a potential windfall for the state, but it could end up costing more than it makes.
Also, if I was an attorney specializing in traffic law, I would move to Virginia and set up shop quicker than a jackrabbit on a date. Student loans? Bah! Paid off in a New York Minute! $500,000 condo? Hell, paid off by March `09...
What I see as an unintended consequence, though - how many folks will be unwilling to "move" to Virginia? Live in the Commonwealth but maintain their permanent addresses in other states. Decreased tax revenue from a potential citizen at the expense of a traffic violation. If you're going to have legislation that allows for non-residents to skirt by such fees, while sticking it to your own citizens, that hardly seems fair. Not to mention...a pretty good way to ensure your dumb ass will be voted out of office.
If Virginia is so intent on cleaning up the highways and increasing revenue, here are a few options from yer friendly Telecomedian:
1) Sliding scale of vehicle registration fees. Sort of a combo SUV tax and a way to promote better MPG. Right now, most cars cost 30 to 35 bucks to register in VA, and trucks are $40. I was pretty surprised to see such low fees, especially in a state that usually can't wait to tax the HELL out of its citizens. Offer free registration for purchasers of a gas-sipping vehicle (like a hybrid, turbodiesel, or car with a average MPG over 35 on the highway). Triple or even quadruple the fees for registering non-work trucks or SUVs, and gas-guzzling muscle cars. You figure a good suburban cul-de-sac would bring in a couple thousand dollars in registration fees, as they are people unlikely to be driving without a license or on suspended plates.
2) Motorcycles that weave in and out of traffic like they're reinacting the trench scene in Star Wars can be hit with scalding hot coffee. I hate these guys driving souped-up crotch rockets threading through traffic at ungodly speeds, coming inches away from getting into wrecks with every turn. This behavior caused a fatal accident on the Maryland side of 495 last week...while the motorcyclist got away scot-free.
If a biker is following the rules of the road, great. But this Speedy Gonzalesesque crap has got to stop. Don't want to be hit with scalding hot coffee? Don't drive like an idiot.
As an added bonus, think of the extra sales' tax gained from coffee shops as some people will want to have a piping hot cup of joe at the ready, just waiting for the next prick to zoom by at 100 miles an hour on 95 on a Ninja.
3) Just a thought - make everybody take a new driving test instead of automatically renewing their license. See how it goes. Try it out. You might like it.
4) Lower the Speed Limit During Rush Hours. I can hear y'all scratching your heads, but read this carefully: Traffic is caused my multiple factors: weather, accidents, volume, construction and capacity being among them. We can't change the weather. Accidents tend to happen to even the safest, most careful drivers. Construction delays are often part and parcel of living in a growing area. But volume and capacity CAN be controlled, or at least predicted.
Rush hour in the evening starts pretty much between 3 and 3:30. Part of the initial crush of cars is the high volume of people hitting low-capacity feeder roads to beat the rest of the rush hour that begins in earnest at 4. So, they want to hightail it out of work so they can get to the high capacity interstates and highways before they clog, the idea being that driving at 70 for a couple of miles makes up for driving at 30 for a dozen more.
How many times have you been cruising on 66 or 495 to see a sudden sea of brakelights around the next hill? Part of that problem is the differential in speed. Brakes are vital to avoid accidents and to make sudden turns, but they are often used to modulate speed. This indicates to me that the road is not being used efficiently. Large gaps between cars are neccessary at high speeds to allow safe following distance, and that gaps becomes decidedly smaller at slower speeds. What can set off a chain reaction of braking is somebody driving dangerously down the highway, or a lone police officer on the side of the road. But what really sets them off more often than that? Somebody in the left hand lane needing to get over to the right hand lane for an exit a 1/4 of a mile away. Somebody needing to merge to avoid a lane that ends. When somebody needs to make one of these such maneuvers, they usually make an unsafe lane change. The drivers closest to the incident hit the brakes to avoid an accident. This makes everybody around them panic break in a pack mentality.
Wouldn't it be a much better allocation of vital resources for the Commonwealth to force the major roads like 395, 66, 495 to go to a slower, more reasonable speed limit like 45, and thus giving drivers more room for merging, lane changes and closing lanes? The regulation of traffic speeds allows for smoother commuting and higher road capacity without building another highway.
It's simple physics...and if entire roads can be made for HOV lanes, the speed limits on other roads can be modified too.