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AAA Re-Embraces Speeding Ticket Tax
AAA clarifies its position in support of the Virginia abuser fees.

AAA office
The American Automobile Association (AAA) on late Friday repositioned itself a third time on Virginia's controversial civil remedial fees, once again wholeheartedly embracing the concept. On June 28, AAA had given unreserved praise for all aspects of the speeding ticket tax which the group had used its substantial lobbying clout to help enact. After members deluged AAA offices with complaints about its support for the fees, however, the organization attempted to distance itself from the abusive driver legislation. In an August 23 statement, AAA acknowledged that the fees are hated by the public and called for a special session to make changes. The group's stance today is more clear.

"AAA continues to support the intent of the fees as well as the proposal for the General Assembly to re-examine certain aspects of the fee legislation," the group said in its new statement dated August 24. "AAA believes the fees themselves, when properly and fairly applied, provide Virginia the opportunity to improve the safety of its roads while generating needed transportation funding."

As noted by TheNewspaper on August 23, the concrete proposal AAA refers to when it speaks of the "fair application" of the fees is their expansion to cover out-of-state drivers, as proposed by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D) and Speaker William J. Howell (R). The primary purpose of such a change would be to increase the amount of revenue collected. AAA is no longer calling for a special session to adopt the fee expansion, however.

AAA had attempted to thread the needle by appearing to its membership to be opposed to the fees while offering legislative support for them. The effort failed. In an exchange with a AAA Mid-Atlantic Public and Government Affairs spokesman late Friday (before the clarifying statement was issued), the organization declined to answer the simple question: "Do you support the complete and unconditional repeal of the fees added by House Bill 3202 in April?" More than 175,000 Virginia voters had signed a petition demanding legislators repeal the fees unconditionally.

One explanation for the disconnect between the views of AAA and its customers is that AAA is one of the nation's largest providers of automobile insurers. That means for each traffic citation issued to Virginia members, AAA can raise that driver's annual premium by anywhere from $50 to $1000 or more. The civil remedial fee law for its part provides a financial imperative for police to issue hefty citations in order to raise revenue.

AAA also backed the re-introduction of red light cameras in Virginia, despite the July 2007 findings of the state Department of Transportation. An examination of six years of data from all cities using photo enforcement concluded that accidents increased 29 percent overall at the intersections with red light cameras (view study). The accidents were serious, as injuries increased 18 percent, angle collisions by 20 percent and rear-end collisions by 42 percent. The Washington Post found similar results in the nation's capital (view report).

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