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The infamous abusive driver fees of the state of Virginia may have garnered a great deal of attention last year, but members of the General Assembly submit dozens of bills each year intent on curbing reckless driving.

In 2008, Approximately 75 bills have been drafted relating to driver safety. Nearly one-third of them called for the direct repeal of abusive driver fees, a series of large fines imposed on drivers convicted of traffic violations. Last year, the fees drew the collective ire of the public. However, some 50 bills sought to stiffen the fines and penalties of other traffic safety laws.

Legislators have proposed that the punishments for driving without a license or convicted of drunk driving be stiffened, in addition to tightening restrictions on teenage drivers. According to some local representatives, driving saftey is still a problem, especially in the Northern Virginia area.

According to Del. Dave Albo (R-42), there are approximately 42 people injured on the roads of Northern Virginia each day. He said there are higher odds of being injured on a road in Northern Virginia than there are of being killed in a dark alley at night.

Advocates for Highway Safety president Judie Stone said that approximately 1,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents in Virginia in 2006.

Stone's organization released a report on February 18 that rated Virginia, in addition to 30 other states, as "yellow" when it came to raod safety laws. There were 18 states, including Washington D.C. and Maryland, that were rated as "green," the highest category. She said Virginia could easily be rated "green" if its seat belt requirement was made a "primary offense." It is currently only a "secondary offense" and a person not wearing their seat belt can only be charged if pulled over for another reason.

The report by Stone's organization said that in 2006, nearly 55 percent of people killed in car accidents weren't wearing seat belts. The report estimated that of the 4,200 lives lost in Virginia car accidents between 1996 and 2003, 294 could have been saved had the sealt belt law been a "primary offense."

Sen. Patricia Ticer (D-30) and Del. Kris Amundson (D-44) both have introduced bills that would make seat belt law a "primary offense." Amundson's was killed in the House of Delegates Police, Militia, and Firearms committee and Ticer's passed out of the Senate, but is expected to be killed by the same House committee.

Del. Sal Iaquinto (R-84) has proposed law dealing with another vehicular problem, drunk driving. His propsoal would require those convicted to have an ignition interlock installed on their car after the first offense which would have to be breathed into to start the car as well as periodically breathed into to keep it running. It also includes a $75 fee and $30 per month user charge that would be required to be paid by the offender to cover the machine's costs.

The purpose of the device is to prevent repeat offenders of drunk driving from doing it again. the Advocates for Highway Safety Report says that there have been studies showing that a person has driven under the influence of alcohol 87 times on average before being caught.

There is also support for a bill Del. William Janis (R-56) proposed that would increase the amount of time the license of a minor caught drinking and driving would be increased from six months to a year and require a fine of $250, minimum. Washington Region Alcohol Program President Kurt Erickson said that in the past five years, underage crashes involving alcohol have increased 40 percent, the largest part of that increase coming from Virginia teenagers.
Bob Battle
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100% of my practice is devoted to serious traffic defense and criminal litigation in state and federal courts
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