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Va. Traffic 'Abuser Fees' Spur Backlash

House Speaker William J. Howell's hometown newspaper, the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, published an editorial Monday that said, "The General Assembly has slipped one over us. . . . these fees . . . are simply outrageous."

In a response the paper plans to publish Wednesday, Howell (R-Stafford) said the "abuser fees . . . have a proven record of increasing road safety and supplementing transportation revenues" and will impact "those who most flagrantly abuse the rules of our roads."

The fees on bad drivers work like this: In addition to the fine, the state of Virginia will issue a bill for a surcharge when someone is convicted of a serious traffic violation, such as driving on a suspended license or driving while intoxicated.

The surcharge for a first-time DWI offense will be $2,250, payable in three installments over two years.

Drivers with less serious charges will also be charged fees if they acquire eight or more points on their driving record.

They will be hit with $100 for the eight points and $75 for every point above eight. The surcharge will affect only state residents because, unlike a fine, the state doesn't have the authority to assess a vehicle fee on out-of-state motorists.

Albo, an attorney who specializes in traffic cases, said the vast majority of Virginia residents won't have to worry about paying the fees. Albo, who is unopposed this fall, said just 2 percent of drivers consistently have more than eight points on their record, and people can get a five-point reduction by taking an online driver safety course.

"The people who don't break the law [will] pay nothing, and the people who do break the law [will] pay more," said Albo, noting that drivers not charged with a serious offense would have to get the equivalent of four tickets before they would be charged the abuser fees.

Even so, the public's reaction to the fees has become fodder for Democrats who had pushed Kaine to veto the transportation bill.

Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said the transportation bill "is one of the most flawed pieces of legislation we've ever had."

"You are hanging that fine on the people of Virginia but not on anyone from out of state," Saslaw said. "If their kid goes out speeding, the parents are going to get stuck paying that."

Kaine noted the transportation package, when fully implemented, will double the amount of money Virginia spends on state highway construction projects.

"People overwhelmingly were saying, 'Fix traffic problems.' It takes money to do it," Kaine said.

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