As of July 1, Virginia drivers have lots to fear if they break traffic laws –- huge traffic fines, so as to help pay for the roads they drive on.
In a novel way to raise transportation revenue, the Virginia legislature last year approved new charges for errant motorists as a way to avoid raising traditional fees and taxes that apply to all motorists.
"The new civil charges will range from $750 to $3,000 and be added to existing fines and court costs. 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."
Flee the scene of a collision? Expect to be charged the maximum of $3,000 – if you are caught and convicted of a felony.
Another unique aspect of the new law is that it is aimed entirely at in-state drivers. Unlike transient occupancy taxes or car rental taxes – taxes aimed squarely at out-of-state residents, non-Virginians will not be burdened with the new charges – as these 'civil penalties' might not be enforceable for those residing out-of-state.
This new revenue measures may be the only ones that not only fund roads, but also make them safer by making the drivers more responsible, and that aspect hasn't gone unnoticed.
"These penalties are harsh, but normal fines haven't gotten people to drive sanely. Maybe this will," says Lon Anderson, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.
He says the new law will help reduce the nearly 1,000 traffic deaths the state records annually.
"We wish motorists didn't have to pay more, but the fact is Virginia's transportation trust fund is broke," Anderson says.