Abuser Fees Working? Reckless Driving Down?

I was an early skeptic of Abuser Fees. Among other concerns, I wondered if the fees would succeed in their stated purpose of deterring reckless driving. Well, I like to think that my opinions are guided by the facts, and some preliminary facts are in. And it looks like, maybe, just maybe, that particular concern was not warranted.

Tyler Whitley at the Times-Dispatch reports that reckless driving arrests by the Virginia State Police have declined in July and the first three weeks of August of this year to 2,603, compared to 3,009 during the same period last year. The number of DUIs fell from to 189 from 199. Likewise, the numbers reported by Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties were generally lower as well.

However, police say it’s too soon to say with certainty that the stiff fines are the reason for the declining number of arrests. The deployment of radar and the use of aerial checks may be factors as well. But if the numbers hold up, the authors of the Abuser Fees will be vindicated on at least one count.

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13 responses to “Abuser Fees Working? Reckless Driving Down?”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Reminds me of Sarbanes-Oxley. Corporate America hated it and moan, moan, more regulation, too much government and ya-da-ya-dya-da.

    Then, guess what? The number of shareholders’ lawsuits plummeted.


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    Last night someone roared past me like I was sitting still. My guess was 90+. (I was running 69 in a 65 zone). Turned out to be a trooper, who then changed lanes and got off on the exit. Stopped a the light at the top of the ramp.

    At that speed, why don’t they use their lights?

  3. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    I am submitting this comment on the behalf of “Publius II” whose user interface with Blogger does not seem to be working.

    The purpose of abuser fees was to raise revenue. In fact, this purpose is written into the very text of the law. Safety did not become a factor until after the General Assembly experienced a backlash from the public regarding this law.

    Further proof of the General Assembly’s “revenue intentions” can be found in the original version of HB 3202, which contained a provision for retroactive penalties (i.e. fining motorists a second time for points on their licenses from previous tickets). Retroactive penalties, by their very nature cannot deter bad driving.

    I would also like to point out that if the law does increase safety, revenues will decline. What will the General Assembly do in such a situation? Pass another tax law?

    Regardless, law enforcement and the criminal justice system should never be used to raise revenue. Such a policy holds unlimited potential for abuse. If the General Assembly is really concerned about safety, which I
    doubt, then increase the criminal penalties for serious traffic offenses.

    This law should be repealed.

  4. “The number of DUIs fell from to 189 from 199.”

    Clarification please?

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Another way of putting it is that DUIs fell from 199 to 189. Is that clearer?

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Now, did the DUI’s decrease because a few more people are being careful, or because the cops took a little more pity (allowed a little more margin on judgement) on account of the abuser fees?


  7. Tobias Jodter Avatar
    Tobias Jodter

    Publius II states the obvious. If these draconian fines result in significantly fewer abusive drivers it will result in decreased revenues. If the purpose is to raise revenues the GA needs more abusers not fewer – lower the fines and revenues will increase.

  8. Phil Rodokanakis Avatar
    Phil Rodokanakis

    Jim, by this logic, if traffic fines were increased to $10K, then we should really see a decline in reckless driving. Heck, while we’re at it, let’s raise them to $50K–that should really slow folks down. They may even stop driving altogether for fear of having to pay a fine they can’t afford. That should clearly alleviate congestion! I’m surprised that one of these moron legislators hasn’t proposed raising traffic fines to stratospheric amounts in the name of clearing our clogged highways.

    But I thought that this was not about safety. If it were about safety, why not just raise the traffic fines instead of using these convoluted remedial fees? Oh I forget, we need the money for roads and at this rate we’ll need to build even more roads, because everyone will be driving like a turtle.

    Did it ever occur to anyone that our traffic laws are obsolete, anachronistic, and overly punitive?

    The 65 MPH speed limit is artificially set. There is nothing that says that certain roads cannot safely accommodate traffic running at 90 MPH or even higher. Yet if you go above 80 you get cited for reckless driving because some legislator came up with the brilliant idea that anyone that’s driving above 80 MPH is reckless.

    Give me a break! I lived in Germany for four years and we routinely drove at 120 MPH and above. I didn’t think that was reckless then, even though their autobahns are not as wide as some of our interstates.

    But let’s not forget that certain interests just despise America’s love affair with the automobile. As far as these folks are concerned, we should all be walking, riding bicycles or taking the Metro–God forbid if you live in a rural area. By their thinking anyone that’s moving on four wheels is reckless.

    I wouldn’t rely on state police statistics for much. These are totally subjective, because for a lot of moving violations it is left up to the cops discretion whether to charge one with reckless driving or some other lesser charge.

  9. AnonymousIsAWoman Avatar

    Actually, given all the publicity these fees have gotten, it wouldn’t surprise me if it didn’t have a deterrent effect on reckless driving.

    But those who pointed out that the purpose of these fees was to raise revenues; and so, if people are driving more carefully – laudable as that is – it’s defeating the real purpose,they are correct.

    I’m glad the roads are somewhat safer, except of course for Phil and his 120 mph :), but now how do we get the money we need?

  10. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Phil, as Lord Keynes famously said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?’” I follow the data. If the data says the Abuser Fees are deterring bad driving, then the proponents have scored a point in the debate. That fact doesn’t change all the other flaws in the legislation, including the fact that the more successful Abuser Fees are in reducing bad driving, the less revenue they will derive. And, as I stated in my post, the state police say it is too soon to draw hard conclusions. But the data cannot be ignored. Let’s see where it leads.

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    “I’m surprised that one of these moron legislators hasn’t proposed raising traffic fines to stratospheric amounts in the name of clearing our clogged highways. “

    In Denmark, traffic fines are pegged to a proportion of your salary, so that rich people cannot speed with relative impunity. Trust me, some day one of those monic legislatures will come up with the idea of raising traffic fines to stratospheric limits.

    Kind of like EMR’s plan to raise taxes and fees 10x to discourage settlement outside the clear edge.


  12. Anonymous Avatar

    I drive 40,000 miles a year, and I don’t see any difference in the level of bad driving. If anything it’s worse, because even more of the slowpokes feel intitled to camp out in the passing lane and clog up the interstate.
    I agree with Phil’s comments above. Driving at high speed and bad driving may or may not be the same thing, depending on conditions, your driving skills, and the capabilities of the vehicle you drive.
    Most of the bad driving I see is not speeding. It is simple failure to pay attention to the task at hand — observe what is ahead, behind, and beside you, and use that information to maximize safety and forward motion! You can do that at 30 or 130.
    Another thing: doing 90MPH in a sports car is not the same thing as doing 90MPH in a Suburban. Vehicles with a high center of gravity are incredibly unstable in highway speed avoidance manuevers, and therefore pose a much higher danger to their occupants as well as everyone else unfortunate enough to be nearby. If you want to promote safety, make them slow down and stay the h&*l out of the passing lane.

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    This abuser fee stuff is a scam. The two guys who created it–Rust and Albo–are defense attorneys. They represent people who get traffic charges. And they charge about $1000 each case.

    I just got a RD driving ticket. I was reaching down to get a bottle cap and my foot slipped off the clutch, my car jolted and I touched the bumper of my friend in front of me. When I quickly reacted and came back up and hit hte clutch, we lightly touched again. No damage. Nothing. Cops on foot patrolling the area saw this and gave me a ticket for reckless driving-general.

    They even tried to get my friend to press charges. I lightly bumped his spare tire, folks. Reckless driving?

    Now I have to hire an attorney for $800-1000 to defend me and I am not even guaranteed out. Plus, possibly court fines and fees.

    What a bunch of crap. I hate this state so much. The politicians are a bunch of self-serving losers and I am tired of it. If I could sell my house, I’d be out of here in a heartbeat. This is one of the worst states to live in in the entire country. I’ve lived all over, and I have never seen laws structured like they are here. There are 10 different RD code sections. It’s pathetic.


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