Drivers are already fed up with fines

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 20, 2007

It certainly didn’t take long for the other shoe to drop.

In this case, it’s the left shoe — the shoe not touching the car’s accelerator — of many Virginia drivers that is hitting the floor in protest.

Less than a month ago, some of the harshest fines in the country went into effect, stiff fines for what had been routine driving violations. Those fines are taking a lot of money from drivers’ pockets and placing it in the state’s coffers to help pay for highway improvements. The drivers, as might be expected, are not pleased.

According to the New York Times, some 100,000 Virginia drivers have signed a petition trying to get those laws repealed.

Some of the new laws taking effect on July 1 include:

– Children riding in motor vehicles will be required to be properly restrained in a booster seat until they reach eight years of age, three years longer than the previous requirement.

– Virginia drivers younger than 18 years of age may not operate a motor vehicle in Virginia while using a cellular telephone or other wireless communications devices.

– Huge, new fines — some as high as $2,500 — for residents caught driving 20 miles above the speed limit or engaging in other reckless driving.

Some of the new driving laws surprised even local law enforcement officials, those people who are usually among the first informed about changes in the laws. Deputies and other officers asked reporters at The Tidewater News what they knew about the new regulations. They seemed surprised at the severity of the laws handed down from Richmond, and enacted with little fanfare.

There’s been a lot of that lately. Some of the new driving laws were embedded in other bills and it took awhile for the new fines to be discovered by the public.

That coincided with the ham-hocked manner in which the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority was imposed on local governments.

But the winner of the “let’s not tell the public what the government is doing award” goes to the announcement of proposed sites for Naval training airstrips that are expected to accommodate more than 13,000 touch-and-go exercises per year at literally, all times of the day and night. That proposal came out of the blue and caused a public uproar about as loud at the jets themselves. And there has yet to be a hearing allowing the public to provide input and comment.

Feedback on the state level regarding the new fines for driving infractions has also been quick and fiercely negative.

“You have no idea how angry people are,” state delegate Robert G. Marshall told the New York Times. Marshall, a Republican from Prince William County in Northern Virginia, is leading a call for a special session to address the issue.

Sure people are angry about the new fines issued for driving transgressions. But people are equally angry over how their state government appears to be operating in secrecy.