- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 15, 2005

OCCOQUAN, Va. — Drivers along a stretch of Interstate 95 who drive recklessly or exceed the speed limit will be hit with hefty fines starting Friday.

The high number of traffic fatalities along the 11-mile stretch in Prince William County has driven state officials to designate it a Highway Safety Corridor.

Starting Friday, motorists who drive recklessly between Occoquan and Quantico face fines of up to $2,500. Those caught speeding will see their fines doubled.

Police showed off new black-and-white warning signs yesterday that mark the area and warn drivers about the extra fines.

The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation to set up safety corridors in 2003. This section of I-95 was chosen because from 2000 to 2002, it had 1,623 crashes that killed nine persons and injured 800, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

“The goal of the program is to identify high crash areas and make motorists aware of traffic safety and change their driving habits,” VDOT safety manager Stephen Read said.

This is the third area in the state with increased fines. Officials designated safety zones on a 15-mile section of Interstate 81 last year and another section of I-95 in Richmond two months ago.

State Trooper Mike Counts said in just two months, officers have made 900 stops along I-95 in Richmond and 1,000 stops on I-81. And police have seen a decrease in fatalities.

He hopes for the same in Northern Virginia, which represents about 6 percent of the I-95 corridor in the state, but has 13 percent of the accidents.

Those charged with a criminal offense such as driving while intoxicated or reckless driving — defined as going 80 mph or more or weaving through traffic — face a fine of at least $200 and as high as $2,500.

The extra fine money goes to Virginia’s literacy fund.

A Virginia highway official trying to get to the press conference about the speeding crackdown hit just the opposite problem yesterday morning — traffic.

VDOT District Administrator Dennis Morrison said he left his house in Chantilly at 8:15 a.m. for the 9:30 press conference down the road in Occoquan.

But it took him nearly two hours to get there because of heavy traffic on Interstate 66.

Mr. Read, who had to fill in and gave the opening remarks and introduction, said I-66 was considered for a speed zone and rejected — but not because of the traffic congestion.

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