- The Washington Times - Friday, May 16, 2003

The District of Columbia isn’t the only government finding new and improved ways to harass commuters. On Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Mark Warner signed into law a measure that will double fines for traffic violations on certain roads, which official fiat now declares to be “safety zones.” The act raises the penalty for traffic violations in these areas up to $500. The new Highway Safety Corridor law is nothing more than a transparent attempt by Richmond to extort cash from area residents.

It should come as no surprise that the proposed highway safety corridors happen to be on well-traveled commuter routes, such as Interstates 95 and 395 surrounding Washington. Heavy traffic guarantees the best business for ticket writers. The windfall of revenue that is expected to be generated from the increased fines largely will go to road construction and expansion, areas where the state has proven woefully inadequate at keeping pace with traffic increases. Given the targeted areas, the increased fines can be seen as penalties for driving on busy roads. They certainly have nothing to do with increasing road safety.

Study after study — most commissioned or conducted by local and state governments — prove conclusively, from every angle, that constantly increasing penalties for moving violations does not alter driving habits. A report to assess the “effectiveness of fines as a speed-control measure in safety corridors” was released last December by Oregon’s Department of Transportation. Among its findings was the conclusion that, “the effectiveness of double-fine signing are weak, inconsistent and generally not very conclusive.” And that “double fines alone are not a sufficient countermeasure to effectively manage speed in safety corridors.” Oregon officials couldn’t get positive results from a telephone poll asking residents if they would speed less as a result of doubled fines.

Even more telling research by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) reveals that double fines do not even work in work zones. In seven of 10 sites monitored, two-thirds of drivers continued to speed after doubled fines were enforced; speeds actually increased in one zone. Despite the lack of effectiveness, TTI’s recommendation was to increase further the already doubled penalties — giving added credence to the notion that these laws are crafted to generate revenue. While Virginia’s new regulations don’t specifically deal with work areas, the same principle applies: If increased fines do not work in construction zones, there is no reason to believe they might work on the open road.

Big Brother traffic enforcement is one of the clearest examples of government that actually is out to get its citizens. It does nothing but increase disrespect for the law.

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