Speeding

A bill under consideration by the Wyoming Legislature would lower fines for speeding, while also simplifying the system used to determine penalties. 

File, Star-Tribune

If you’ve ever to had to cough up the cash to pay for a speeding ticket, you might be happy to hear that some Wyoming lawmakers want to lower speeding fines. Speeding tickets are expenses that people typically don’t budget for, and so their financial impact can be significant. That money could mean paying rent late, or going without some nonessentials for the month. And nobody needs more financial stress in their life.

But that cost is avoidable. You don’t need to incur the financial stress of a several hundred dollar speeding fine if you simply don’t speed.

You’d also be improving your safety, as well as the safety of those around you. Wyoming roads can be brutal, especially in the winter, when ice and the wind combine to make your evening commute anything but routine. Speeding on slick roads is a recipe for disaster.

The financial penalties act as a deterrent, and for the safety of all our citizens, shouldn’t be changed. That’s why we oppose any attempt to lower speeding fines.

Currently, a driver who’s caught speeding 5 mph over the limit pays $80 in the city, $40 on an unpaved road and $25 on the highway. New fines would cost a driver $20 for speeding 5 mph over the limit, regardless of where they were. And that’s a pretty significant cut, especially in towns, where speeding can potentially affect the most people.

To be sure, some people will continue to speed, regardless of the financial penalties. But higher fines will cause some to hesitate before mashing down on the gas pedal. That’s the point. That’s a good thing, because speeding accounts for one-third of total motor vehicle fatalities in the U.S., according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It’s an aggressive driving behavior, and it increases the risk for accidents.

Lawmakers aren’t just aiming to lower fines. They want to simplify the bond schedule, which is currently complex and confusing. Simplifying the bond schedule will make writing tickets more efficient for officers, the courts and for the public. And we support anything that streamlines bureaucracy.

But the cost of the fines shouldn’t also be lowered, because the cost of dangerous driving isn’t paid only by the driver, but everyone else on the road. Speeding fines should be a financial burden, so that drivers consider that weight when choosing whether to abide by the speed limit or not.

The cost to the state for lowering the fines will be approximately $1.5 million per year, according to estimates by the Legislative Services Office. And though that amount pales next to the state’s overall budget deficit, does it really make sense to cut any source of revenue amid the current budget struggles?

When lawmakers consider this bill, they need to keep in mind the risks of speeding and the role fines play in deterring it. A simplified bond schedule make sense. Significantly lowered fines do not.

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Opinion Editor

Dallas Bower joined the Star-Tribune copy desk in June 2017. She studied English at the University of Wyoming. Her favorite book is The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, or Harry Potter, depending on the day.

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