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Posted 9/12/12 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Up until a few years ago, I would have argued long and hard with anyone who said that North Dakota needed to increase its fines for speeders on our state’s highways. After all, most of the state’s interstate highways were designed for faster driving speeds. And likewise, the vast majority of our state highways were in such good condition and the traffic was so sparse that it was pretty easy to exceed the speed limit and still feel very safe.
But over the past couple of years, I’ve completely changed my tune on law enforcement officers looking the other way when it comes to speeders. Maybe my change of heart is because I’m getting older and maybe a little wiser and becoming more cautious when- ever I get behind the wheel. Or maybe I want drivers to drive the speed limit because the roads in western North Dakota aren’t the same as they were five years ago. And neither is the traffic that is cruising up and down the highways. Or maybe it’s because I’ve seen far too many accidents where excessive driving speeds were a major contributor to injuries and fatalities.
So even when people know better than to speed, why do they do so? Part of the answer is the belief that accidents always happen to someone else. We all want to believe that we are a better driver than the person we are passing regardless of the speed that we are driving. And of course, there is always the business about being late for wherever you are going, so the only way to get there on time is to push the speed limit a little and hope that you don’t run into a law enforcement officer.
But another reason that some people speed is that the state’s fines for speeding don’t really serve as much of a deterrent. Granted, if you are a habitual speeder who is unfortunate enough to get caught speeding frequently, you are going to feel the pain as you lose points off your driver’s license and face the chance of paying higher insurance costs.
But those two penalties don’t really ding you like a real hefty fine to go along with the loss of points.
And a hefty increase in fines for speeders is just what the state’s legislative interim Transportation Committee is proposing.
While it is a long way from a interim committee’s recommendation to the full Legislature enacting the changes, hopefully, the idea of upping the speeding fines in the state will receive the support that it deserves.
As is being proposed, a motorist being cited for driving 65 mph in a 55 mph zone would see the fine go up from $10 to $50, while getting caught driving 80 mph on an interstate with a 75 mph limit would see the fine increase from $25 to $50. Push the pedal down a little harder and the fine for driving 10 mph over the posted 75 mph speed limit would bump it up from $50 to $90.
While those fine increases will surely not break anyone’s bank account, it would be nice if the prospect of paying a bigger penalty if caught speeding would act as enough of a deterrent to slow traffic down to the marked speed limits. And traffic moving at the posted speed limit is bound to be safer.