Paul Jacob

Everyone speeds . . . but what about over-speeding? Could it be that even in Virginia, the land of perpetually bad traffic, only a minority regularly puts pedal to metal to drive 20 miles over the speed limit? That's said to be reckless driving, after all.

But it's not for the public safety that the the state of Virginia has begun to impose huge, whopping fines, for over-speeding — more than several thousand per incident. It's not a focused campaign to get us all to drive better, safer.

It's a massive campaign to allow politicians to spend more. The expected $65 million to be raised this year this way was the Democratic governor's (and legislators') response to a defeat of his coveted tax increase. The fines are to be directed to road development.

Then came the huge, honking outcry. Since July 1 more than 130,000 Virginians have signed a petition to repeal the law establishing these whopping fines. The legislature has been inundated with calls and emails.

Delegate Robert G. Marshall, who opposed the law before passage, now leads the legislative campaign against it. "Criminal and civil penalties shouldn't be created for raising money," he said. "You don't want to turn our police into gun-toting tax collectors."

You Aren't David Albo
But turning the police into tax collectors is precisely what has happened. There are several reasons for this. The governor's support was one.

But without the tireless, 20-month campaign of David Albo, this bold new approach to public finance and public roadway repair would never have "got off the ground."

It was Albo's bill that put the new and rather complex fine-and-tax structure for over-speeders in place. He readily admits it. He's proud of it. Or, at least, was. He doesn't seem nearly as visible these days as he was when the bill was passed.

I'm not going to explain the structure of the penalties here. I've read conflicting accounts, and even after peering at the law until my eyes are bleary, I'm not at all sure that I could explain it without the help of a lawyer. All I know is that a thousand bucks here and $2500 there, and an extra $100 for special people — all for one infraction, depending on how many tickets you've had — and these whopping amounts can really add up.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.