It's amazing the lengths people will go to to whine about something which they have complete control over. Take smoking for example. With the price of a pack or carton of cigarettes increasing practically every month, anyone who currently smokes can quit any time they like and avoid paying the exhorbitant prices. They just have to have the willpower to stay smoke free.
The same can be said about Virginia's new law which allows police to levy fines up to $1,050 for people who are speeding 20 miles an hour or more over the speed limit. You read that correctly; a $1,050 speeding ticket. Take into account the extra court costs and such and one could easily see a $2,000 fine for speeding.
The law isn't limited to speeding. First-time drunk drivers face a $2,250 civil penalty. Plus court costs.
Why such high fines? The fines were set so high with the idea that the money raised would be used to fund road projects rather than the tried-and-true method of raising taxes.
Needless to say, people are not happy with the new fines. Which is funny because they have complete control over whether they have to pay or not. Dont' want to pay $2,000 for a speeding ticket? Don't drive 20 miles or more over the speed limit or drive drunk.
Here is what one person said about the new fines and why it's a bad idea:
"This is going to hit the poor the worst because they will be least able to handle such a huge fine. Someone living paycheck to paycheck is going to be wiped out by a small mistake."
Small mistake? Driving 20 miles, or more, over the posted speed limit is a mistake? You mean that when I drive 45 miles an hour through your neighborhood, where the speed limit is 25, and your shinbiters are roaming the streets, my speeding is a mistake?
Here is what the organizer of an online petition to repeal the fines has to say about the law:
"The fines are ridiculously high, and they don't improve safety."
They don't improve safety? Really? So what you're saying is it would be better if I got a smaller fine for driving 45 through your neighborhood while your kids are roaming about rather than hitting me with a much larger fine. Sounds logical to me. That means I can race through your neighborhood several times before I would have to pay the same amount under the current system. That gives me even more chances to run over one of your kids who dart into the street.
Of course, there is this comment from one of the people interviewed for the article. Just two weeks before the new law took effect, she got a $250 ticket for driving 86 mph in a 65 mph zone (i.e. 21 miles over the posted speed limit):
"I have to admit it that getting the ticket and realizing the size of these new fines has made me more aware, and I'm driving more carefully now."
Sounds to me like the new law is paying off in at least one person driving more safely.
In the above examples I'm not trying to play the "Think of the children!" card. I am merely using that as an example to show how far above the speed limit one has to drive to be affected by the new fines. This isn't about driving 70 in a 65 or 30 in a 25. This is about driving well beyond the posted speed limit in such a manner that your actions are reckless. Which, incidentally, is exactly how the law phrases the conditions under which you would be fined.
One of the state officials who did not vote for the new law had this to say about it:
"Criminal and civil penalties shouldn't be created for raising money. You don't want to turn our police into gun-toting tax collectors. They're supposed to be officers of the peace, nothing else."
Mr. Marshall, the owner of the above quote, is somewhat wrong on the first count and wrong on the second count. Monetary penalties in criminal and crivil cases are used for two purposes: to punish the offender and, if possible, to compensate the victim.
As to his second comment, if the role of police is to be officers of the peace, then enforcing the law is their job regardless of the penalty attached to the law. In other words, stopping people who are driving above the speed limit is already part of their job duties. It is irrelevant what the penalty for speeding is as they are not the ones who will be meting out the fine.
What makes this whole story so hilarious is the response from some of the people interviewed. The owner of the website with the online petition suggested that the Commonwealth could raise the gasoline tax instead of implementing these fines because that would be more equitable.
More equitable? Really? Seems to me if you raise the cost of gasoline it would hurt the poor the worst because they will be least able to handle such an increase. After all, if you have a car, you have to fill it with gasoline (for now at least) and the more it costs to fill your tank, the less money you have for other things like food and clothes.
Another driver suggested they would be willing to pay an extra dollar in taxes per year to not have to worry about getting a $2,500 fine for going above the speed limit. In other words, let me pay a small amount so I can recklessly endanger people's lives. Sounds reasonable.
Here's the thing. These fines are not for the person, including myself, who drives five miles over the speed limit. These new fines are for people who, as I stated earlier, are driving well beyond the posted speed limit. You, as the driver, have complete control over whether you get one of these new fines or not. If you don't want to pay a $2,500 fine, there is a simple solution: DON'T DRIVE 20 MILES OVER THE POSTED SPEED LIMIT!
For some inexplicable reason, more and more people have this opinion that they are free to do whatever they want and everyone else be damned. Usually, the phrase 'freedom' or 'violations of my rights' comes into play, as if endangering someone else's life by your actions is acceptable.
Everyone has the right to endanger their own life. If you want to drink a gallon of vodka, that is your right. You do not have the right to drink a gallon of vodka and then go out driving. By drinking said vodka and then driving, you are endangering everyone around you.
The same applies with speeding. While many will debate the logic behind posted speed limits, including, some would argue, whether they are solely for the collection of fines, the fact of the matter is the posted limits are what they are. If you choose, and it is a choice, to speed twenty miles or more over the speed limit, you should expect to pay the penalty. The fact that the penalty is a large fine is irrelevant. You chose to speed, you pay the penalty. To use a quaint quote, "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time."
Here's the really neat part about this fine. If people don't drive twenty or more miles above the posted speed limit, the Commonwealth of Virginia won't collect the money they thought they would and so will have to find other ways of raising revenue to pay for road repairs. It's a win-win situation. People will slow down and not endanger those around them and the people who say they'd be willing to pay a yearly fee get their wish. Everyone wins!
So go ahead citizens of Virginia, whine all you want about the high fines. Don't want to pay them? Don't drive twenty or more miles over the speed limit. It's that simple. However, those that said they'd be willing to pay more in taxes to avoid the fines shouldn't complain when their taxes do get raised.