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D.C.’s proposed $1,000 speeding ticket, explained

If you’re flying down a D.C. street at 25 mph or more above the posted speed limit and get caught, you could soon face a $1,000 fine.

The high financial penalty– which has been widely criticized by drivers and their advocates– is among several new traffic enforcement measures Mayor Muriel Bowser is proposing to eliminate road deaths and injuries. The tougher penalties would bring the District more in line with other states, the District’s top transportation official said.

“Our fine regime is the weakest in the region,” D.C. Department of Transportation Director Leif Dormsjo said.  “We’ve got to increase the fines.”

Currently drivers traveling 25 mph above the posted limit in the city face a maximum fine of $300.  Meanwhile in Maryland, a driver who commits the same infraction can be charged up to $500. In Virginia, it’s a $250 ticket — and potentially a reckless driving charge that carries a penalty of $2,500 and jail time.

“We can’t have the weakest regime in the region,” Dormsjo said. “Is it appropriate to get to $1,000? Other jurisdictions in the country have done that so we wouldn’t be the first in the country to do that. But the point is we’ve got to do something.”

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers caught speeding in Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada, and New Hampshire face fines of up to $1,000.

While some D.C. commuters welcome the proposed higher fines, others view them as an arbitrary attempt to target drivers, question the impact on low-income drivers.

“If you’re going 25 over the speed limit, you are a danger to everyone on the road,” one reader said.  “The new fine is appropriate. Actually stop at the stop lights. Don’t block traffic. These are really common sense things that drivers who don’t suck actually do. The previous fines were a joke. These are more appropriate.”

But others disagree. “Disgusting. The District should be ashamed of itself,” one reader said in a comment to a story about the proposal. “And the idea that they are trying to prevent accidents here is a joke. They want to make money, pure and simple.”

D.C. transportation officials say their bottom line is to make clear– especially to the neighbors who drive into the city every day– that speeding isn’t going to be tolerated. (DDOT says that Virginia and Maryland drivers are involved in more than 40 percent of all crashes in the District).

“Most of the speeding violations that we have seen over the last five years have been from Maryland and Virginia drivers who should know better because they have fine regimes that are more hefty than the District,” Dormsjo said.

Higher fines deter speeders, he said, noting that from 2010 to 2014, traffic incidents in the city killed 67 drivers or passengers, 57 pedestrians, and seven bicyclists. But he said the city will listen to concerns about the higher penalties and will determine if $1,000 is appropriate.

“If we can accomplish the safety benefits at a lower dollar value I’m fine with that,” he said.


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