- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Virginia drivers will pay higher fines for breaking traffic laws on especially treacherous sections of highways, under legislation signed yesterday by Gov. Mark Warner.

The law, signed while Mr. Warner was attending the 15th annual Conference on Transportation in Charlottesville, will double existing fines for driving recklessly on roads to be designated as highway safety corridors.

“We are decades away from widening [some of these roads] and separating trucks, so in the absence of having more dollars anytime soon, this is a way to slow down drivers and make Virginia roads safer,” said Ellen Qualls, press secretary for Mr. Warner.

The legislation, sponsored by state Sen. John Edwards, Roanoke Democrat, instructs the Virginia Department of Transportation commissioner, Department of Motor Vehicles representatives and the state police superintendent to establish guidelines for designating such highways.

The group, which will hold public hearings before changes are made, will also look into crash data, accident reports and traffic studies.

Once the designation is made, signs will be posted stating motorists are in an increased-fine zone.

“Pennsylvania and California have done this, and we thought it was the right thing to do here,” Miss Qualls said.

Interstate 81 in western Virginia is expected to be one of the first to qualify for the special designation. Other highways, such as I-95 in the eastern region of the state and I-64 in the central part of the state, could qualify later.

“We would encourage members of these communities to contact us and we will look into and study those additional roads as well,” Miss Qualls said.

Mr. Warner took advantage of the trip to Charlottesville also to honor two Virginians who have spent their careers working on transportation-related issues. Retiring DMV Commissioner Ab Quillian and retiring Delegate James F. Almand, Arlington Democrat, were given theGovernor’s Transportation Safety Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mr. Quillian was appointed commissioner of the DMV by Gov. James S. Gilmore III five years ago. He informed Mr. Warner of his plans to retire in March and last week the governor appointed Demerst B. “D.B.” Smit as the new commissioner.

Mr. Smit now serves as the director of the Department of General Services.

“DMV is clearly facing challenges and D.B. Smit has proven time and again that he can take on leadership roles in complicated, multi-office agencies and improve performance,” Mr. Warner said. “I have directed D.B. to move immediately to improve DMV’s customer services.”

Mr. Almand has served in the in General Assembly since 1978 and announced his retirement after the General Assembly adjourned earlier this year.

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