Should Out Of State Drivers Be Hit With Bigger Speeding Fines?

Traffic-Tickets-in-North-Dakota-89

Rep. Bob Skarphol has introduced HB1189 which, if passed, would target out-of-state drivers with bigger speeding fines and distribute the revenues from those larger fines back to the cops writing the tickets.

Not withstanding any other provision of law, if an operator of a vehicle is stopped for a violation of section 39-09-02 or equivalent ordinance, the operator is the registered owner of the vehicle, and there is evidence that the operator is gainfully employed in this state, the fee for the violation is the higher of the fee in section 39-06.1-06 or equivalent ordinance, or the highest fee, fine, or bond for a speed limit violation at any speed and location in the home state. The superintendent of the highway patrol shall provide a schedule of the highest fees, fines, or bonds for other states every two years and make the schedule available to police officers. A determination of the highest fee by the superintendent is deemed to be the highest fee. If the fee, fine, or bond in the other state is higher than in this state, the difference is assessed as a special fee for deposit in the state treasury. The state treasurer shall distribute monthly the special fees deposited in the state treasury for a citation issued by a county police officer to the sheriff of the county in which the violation occurred and for a citation issued by the highway patrol to the operating fund of the highway patrol. All fees deposited in the state treasury under this section are appropriated on a continuing basis for distribution as provided in this section.

Skarphol has characterized it to the media as a way to tie the cost of traffic impact in the state to the influx of out-of-state drivers creating it. “Its become far too prevalent that people are doing this,” Skarphol told KX News. “I think it’s appropriate for us to find a mechanism that would ask these individuals to support the costs of our road system as well as our own citizens.”

There are some good reasons to be uncomfortable with this bill.

For one thing, this is rank parochialism. This is the “stick it to the out-of-staters” attitude which is so unhealthy for our state. It’s a manifestation of a wide streak of isolationism which runs through the state. At a time when we should be thankful for all the new people coming to our state to work and invest (though always cognizant of the challenges which come along with them) after years of a shrinking state population and dying communities, we’re targeting them with laws making their traffic violations a more serious sort of transgressions than ours.

Let’s not go down that road. Equality under the law, please.

For another, this law may as well be putting a bulls eye on people driving cars with out-of-state license plates. This law provides a big financial incentive to law enforcement agencies for targeting out-of-state drivers. How long until the cops are prioritizing out-of-state speeders over in-state speeders because one sort of ticket directs revenues to directly to their department while the other does not?

Is one type of speeder more dangerous than another? Of course not. Let’s not give incentive for enforcing the laws unequally.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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