by Ted Rall
SPEED KILLS (YOUR WALLET)
It was a beautiful afternoon in early autumn, and for an instant I mistook the brightly colored lights flashing in my rearview mirror for streaks of sunlight filtering through gently turning leaves. But only for an instant. Just past a curve on a steady downgrade a sign announced the end of the 55 mile-per-hour state speed limit and the beginning of the town 40. I hit the brakes but it was too late. That’s the purpose of a speed trap. Sixty-two in a 40, the policeman said.
Speeding tickets have always been a pain in the butt. You pay about $150, and if your insurance company chooses to be mean it uses the three fresh points on your license to justify a rate hike. In a recent legal transformation that has quietly gathered steam across the United States, however, getting caught speeding has become far more traumatic.
A year before the incident related above, a state trooper had plucked me out of a cluster of vehicles on the Long Island Expressway, dinging me for 72 in a 55(heavy volume had slowed traffic from its typical average of 80) That earned me a $185 fine plus six points–a point hike up from the long-standing three. A few months later the Department of Motor Vehicles sent me a letter notifying me that I owed an additional $300–bringing the total fine to $485–for a “driver responsibility assessment.” The 2004 law establishing the additional fees was passed in greater secrecy than the USA Patriot Act; even this devourer of three newspapers a day hadn’t heard of it.
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