Higher fines eyed for speeding

Posted on Jan 13 2012

To promote road safety while generating more revenue for the Department of Public Safety, a lawmaker is proposing to increase the maximum fines for speed limit violations by 50 percent—from $100 to $150 for a first offense. The proposed fine for a second offense is $375, from the current $250.

This early, motorists are crying foul over the proposed increase at a time when the economy is in shambles and work hours and salaries are being cut as part of austerity measures in government and the private sector. Some motorists are suggesting other ways to make roads and the community safer without imposing stiffer fines.

“While it’s a deterrent because it could force drivers to drive within speed limits and therefore promote road safety, I see this bill as merely a money-making scheme,” said a 45-year-old father of two from Navy Hill, who had once been fined for beating a red light.

Rep. Janet Maratita (Ind-Saipan), author of House Bill 17-264, said her proposal serves two main functions: create a safer driving experience and generate revenue for DPS and offset operational costs associated with enforcing traffic laws.

Under the bill, all fines and penalties collected will be transferred and deposited into a general fund account for the exclusive use of DPS.

The bill amends 9 CMC section 5251, referring to speed limits of the Commonwealth Code, by increasing the maximum fines by 50 percent “to discourage drivers from driving at high speeds.”

Another father of two from Fina Sisu said yesterday that DPS has already put in place a lot of deterrence to discourage drivers from violating traffic laws.

“Why can’t DPS focus more on catching criminals other than motorists? I believe they’re focusing more on motorists because that’s the easiest thing they could do,” he said.

Another motorist, Ed Propst, said he would rather see a bill that increases the fines and jail sentences by 100 percent for “ice” dealers and burglars.

“How about our lawmakers work on a three-strike law instead? That would have a greater impact than increasing speeding tickets,” he said.

Maratita also introduced another bill that would transfer some functions of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles such as vehicle registrations and issuance of driver’s licenses to a new Office of Vehicle and Driver Registration under the Department of Finance’s Revenue and Taxation Division.

Both pre-filed bills will be introduced during Tuesday’s House session, along with a resolution authored by Rep. Stanley Torres (Ind-Saipan) supporting DPS in its ongoing highway checkpoints and encourage more safety checks for vehicles at night.

Torres, one of the longest serving lawmakers in the CNMI, said in his House Resolution 17-88 that the DPS commissioner should continue its sobriety checkpoints year-round to prevent serious vehicular mishaps involving drunk or drugged driving.

His resolution also urges the DPS commissioner to establish vehicle safety checks at night in order to inspect and cite vehicles with unsafe light systems that use other colors than the standard red, amber and clear, including the improper use of colored tints and colored bulbs on headlights and taillights “that bother and distract other drivers,” among other things.

Torres’ resolution also urges the commissioner to have his safety officers to make periodic checks at vehicle repair shops and auto parts stores to remind them not to sell illegal parts and lighting systems to customers.

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