Proposals could alter or end Virginia’s ‘bad driver’ fees

| 1/9/2008

Virginia lawmakers are expected to revisit one of the most contentious issues in their state in recent years during the 2008 legislative session. The problem stems from fees and fines included in the massive $3 billion transportation bill approved a year ago.

In recent weeks, at least six bills have been filed for consideration to either eliminate the so-called bad driver fees and provide refunds to those who already paid them or amend the rules to reduce the number of offenses subject to the harsher penalties.

The fees and fines are part of the state’s long-term road-building plan that House and Senate lawmakers approved in March 2007. The transportation package was several years in the making when Gov. Tim Kaine signed it into law. Since the law took effect July 1, public opposition about the fines for certain driving violations has led many lawmakers to call for change.

The fees for violations made by “bad drivers” are payable in three annual payments ranging from $250 to $1,000. They are expected to generate $65 million a year for transportation.

Serious offenses that could result in paying hefty fines include drunken or reckless driving. Of particular interest to truck drivers, the law also boosts penalties for overweight trucks and heavy truck registration fees.

Nonresidents are immune from the penalties and fees.

Lawmakers pursuing changes to the law have different reasons for seeking edits, but all agree that public angst over the rules led them in this direction.

Gov. Tim Kaine and leaders from both parties have said they want to include out-of-state drivers. However, repealing all the abusive-driver fees is much less likely.

The legislative efforts can be considered during the regular session that begins Wednesday, Jan. 9.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Virginia, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor