Speeding motorists pay $1 million annually

Published 11:56 am Saturday, August 18, 2012

COURTLAND—On the road for nearly nine hours after vacationing in South Carolina, Christine Thornhill just wanted to get home to Norfolk.

Thornhill’s trip was delayed when she was stopped for speeding in Southampton County.

The 37-year-old kindergarten teacher was clocked driving 70 mph in a 60-mph zone and fined $125.

“I’m not really happy about it, but I’ll be even less happy when I have to pay it,” she said.

Thornhill is among 700 motorists stopped monthly on routes 58 and 460 in Southampton County by sheriff’s deputies, who levy about $86,000 a month in fines and costs, said Major Gene Drewery. Last year, deputies levied $1 million.

The average fine is $60 and the average for court cost is $61.

Money collected from fines goes to the county. Court costs are dispersed by the State Supreme Court; some comes back to the county,

Of that average, about half goes uncollected, Drewery said.

“If you don’t pay a fine, your license gets suspended,” he said. “But until that person gets pulled over and they get charged with a suspended license, it just stays out there. The court doesn’t have any recourse and can’t garnish wages.”

“Usually, it gets taken care of over a period of time,” Drewery added

The money collected makes up 4 percent of the county’s $13.5 million general fund, said County Administrator Mike Johnson. It is used to cover the cost of running the courts, sheriff’s office, public works, library and more.

The county received $640,000 from traffic tickets for 2010-2011 and budgeted $589,000 for 2011-2012 and $597,250 for 2012-2013, Johnson said.

Deputies spend more time patrolling the county’s 38-mile section of Route 58 than Route 640 because it’s more heavily traveled, Drewery said. Motorists take Route 58 from Hampton Roads to Interstate 95 and vice-versa.

The majority of motorists stopped on Route 58 are between Courtland and Drewryville.

The speed limit is 60 mph on Route 58, except for the school zone in Capron. Twice a day, the speed limit drops to 35 mph when buses are arriving and leaving Capron Elementary School. A flashing light warns motorist about the speed reduction.

Route 58 also drops to 55 mph from Jerusalem Road near the Courtland Inn and east to New Market Road, which takes motorists to the Southampton County Fairgrounds.

The Sheriff’s Office pays overtime to patrol both highways

“Their purpose is reduce traffic accidents that can be caused by drunk driving, distracted driving or speed,” Drewery said.