Alaska Editorial: Advocating higher fines for speeders

Posted: Monday, June 12, 2006

This editorial appeared in The Voice of the Times:

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Double traffic fines against drivers who exceed the speed limit in the state's newly designated highway traffic safety corridors in Alaska absolutely make good sense. But why stop at that? Why not double the fines imposed on everybody who speeds on every street and highway, in town and out?

Speeders cause accidents that result in death, mayhem and gruesome injuries. Millions of dollars in property damages and loss as well as untold agony and major inconveniences are inevitable consequences of vehicle smashups in which speed was a direct cause.

The new safety corridors include a section of the Seward Highway south of Anchorage to Girdwood; a part of the Sterling Highway heading southwest into Soldotna; the Knik/Goose Bay Road south of the Parks Highway; and portions of the Glenn Highway and the Parks Highway in the Palmer/Wasilla intersection area.

Important targets, of course - but hardly the only places where drivers put the pedal to the metal and recklessly endanger the lives of others.

If big fines will curb some of this, let's have it - big time. We would even support heavier penalties - including jail and forfeiture of the vehicles.

The initial reports after the new corridor safety program was put in place included the arrest of one motorist who was doing 104 miles an hour in a 65-mile-an-hour zone on the Seward Highway last Saturday, amid the Memorial Day weekend traffic. He got off with a fine of $610 - a slap on the wrist for the danger he posed. He should have been in the slammer.

Authorities said there is a cap on speeding fines, and that's why no heavier penalty was assessed.

Another speeder paid a $490 fine for driving 20 miles an hour over the speed limit. Both of these guys got off easy.

Why the cap, anyway? Why not a schedule that escalates dramatically, to a degree that people might seriously consider their own pocketbooks when tempted to ignore speed limits?

A $610 fine against somebody who exceeds a hundred miles an hour is simply nonsense.

So, too, would be a simple fine applied to somebody going 60 miles an hour on Northern Lights Boulevard or Lake Otis Parkway or any other city thoroughfare - and we've all seen instances of that happening, sadly without an arrest or any fine whatsoever.

Let's crack down on these nut cases who drive like idiots, and endanger lives with no thought of others.

Let's make every street and highway a safety corridor.

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