Some penalties double in traffic-fine overhaul

Posted: Tuesday, June 29, 2004

ANCHORAGE - In the first major revision in 20 years, Alaska drivers who get caught breaking traffic laws can expect to pay double, and in some cases quadruple, what they do now for violations.

The increased fines, which apply to 230 traffic and vehicle offenses, will bring fines levied by the Alaska State Troopers more in line with other jurisdictions.

For example, drivers caught with an open container of alcohol in their vehicle would get a $300 ticket from Anchorage police but only a $50 ticket from troopers. Under the new fine schedule, the trooper ticket would cost $200.

Public Safety Commissioner Bill Tandeske said fines have been stiffened for those violations that place the driving public at greatest risk.

"These increases are not motivated by desire for revenue; rather, by our sincere desire to make the roads of Alaska a safer place for everyone," he said.

Troopers Capt. Al Storey said the department has considered increasing the fines for several years. The last large-scale revision was in 1985, but he said a string of wrecks last summer on the Seward Highway hastened the effort.

During one week in August, six people were killed and seven others were sent to hospitals in a pair of accidents in the Turnagain Pass area. A number of nonfatal wrecks followed those in the same stretch of the highway. Speeding or improper passing often contributed to the accidents, according to trooper reports from the time.

Storey said troopers tried to modify driver behavior with stepped-up enforcement but felt it wasn't as effective as it could have been because "the penalties were so low."

The new schedule includes substantial fine increases for speeding. For violations of up to 19 mph over the speed limit, the fine has been raised from $4 per mph to $8. So someone cited for driving 50 mph in a 35 mph zone would face a fine of $120 instead of $60, according to troopers.

Drivers caught going 20 mph or more over the speed limit would face a $12 fee for each mph in violation. Penalties would continue to be more expensive in school and construction zones.

Fines for passing violations also will increase. Passing in a no-passing zone, failure to yield to an overtaking vehicle and failure to yield to oncoming traffic while passing will each be bumped from $50 to $150.

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