By Greg Muender
This reflects not only the great diversity of our country, but it also reflects just how creative some state legislatures can get when it comes to raising money.
Speeding Ticket Fines
Take, for example, the issue of speeding ticket fines. Some states approach the situation fairly reasonably, assessing fines steep enough that they cover the costs of traffic patrols and courts, but stopping short of becoming a source of revenue. Other states – the ones we’ll talk about in a minute – have turned the speeding ticket into a cash cow.
Here are some of the top states that are known for gouging drivers with their excessive speeding ticket fines:
1. Georgia — In May 2009, Georgia passed what’s been referred to as a “super speeders” act. This law tacks on $200 to your fine if you’re caught speeding above 75 miles per hour on a two-lane road (or above 85 miles per hour on the freeway).
This amount is on top of the fine you’re already going to incur from the local jurisdiction. There are some municipalities in Georgia where you can be looking at more than $1,000 for a speeding ticket, plus the additional $200 on top of that.
Georgia is one of those places where travelers are trying to make up time. Folks coming down from the Midwest or New England on their way to sunny Florida take advantage of that long stretch of Georgia freeway, and this law is designed to make that a tougher proposition.
Incidentally, the funds from that program go toward trauma care centers in the state of Georgia.
There are some other states – most notably Illinois, Nevada, New Hampshire, and North Carolina, where first-time offending speeders can be fined as much as $1,000, as in Georgia.
2. Michigan — Michigan is one of a handful of states that uses a “driver-responsibility fee system.” In this scenario, a speeder can be looking at two charges: one from the municipality and another one from the state. Together, the fines can approach (and in rare cases exceed) $1,000.
In Michigan, this applies not only to speeding tickets, but also to other driving offenses such as reckless driving and DUI.
And, if you’re a driver in Michigan, you need to be very careful about adding points to your license. If you have seven points or more on your license each year, you’re looking at an annual fee on top of everything else.
There are other states that use the “driver responsibility” laws, including Texas and New Jersey. Several other states are considering similar legislation.
3. Virginia — For a long time, Virginia was known as being one of the worst places in the country to get a speeding ticket. Its driver responsibility laws, until they were repealed in 2008, saw the state levying fines of as much as $1,050 on top of the standard speeding fine of $300.
One of the problems still on the books in Virginia is the state reckless driving policy. If you’re going more than 10 miles per hour above the legal speed limit, you can also expect to be cited for reckless driving. Reckless driving can be a felony and if you get charged in that way you’re looking at more than gouging; you’re looking at a criminal record.
Not only that, if you’re going 80 in Virginia you’re automatically cited for reckless driving.
You can never be sure
While we can step back and look at the big picture in terms of state laws, the problem is this: many municipalities have plenty of leeway to gouge you on a speeding ticket, as well. So, a rural county in South Carolina might well be able to levy a higher fine on a speeding ticket than what you’d get – even with the super speeder penalty – in Georgia.
Know the Penalties
The best way to avoid a speeding ticket is obviously not to speed. If you’re going to speed, however, make sure you’ve got a handle on what the penalties are going to be like where you’re at. Some states put limits on how much municipalities can fine you for a speeding ticket, while other states leave it wide open.
Be smart. Avoid the double-dip penalties of states like Michigan and Georgia, and stay away from a possible felony in Virginia.
Greg Muender is President of Ticket Kick, a California company that helps drivers get red light tickets, speeding tickets, and other driving tickets dismissed by helping drivers through thetrial by written declaration process. The company, which formally launched in 2010, has been providing similar services since 2006 and is the leading company in this industry and is growing rapidly.
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