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Virginia: Holiday Deaths Up Despite Abuser Fees, Ticket Blitz
Issuing $7 million in speeding tickets over Thanksgiving weekend failed to make Virginia roads any safer.

Virginia state trooper
Deaths on Virginia highways increased on Thanksgiving weekend, despite a massive ticketing effort and draconian new fines. The state police ordered a full three-quarters of the entire force to be out on the roads issuing as many tickets as possible, and the troopers delivered 21,822 citations between November 21 and 25. Of this amount, 3077 tickets qualified for the $1050 civil remedial fees imposed in July, primarily for exceeding the speed limit by at least 15 MPH.

That means the state will collect $3,230,850 from one weekend's worth of abuser fees alone. Together with regular citations and speeding tickets, the total effort will likely generate between $7 and $10 million in revenue. Nonetheless, sixteen motorists died on the holiday weekend in 2007 compared to fifteen in the 2006 when the remedial fees did not apply. National Motorists Association President Jim Baxter says this proves that the Virginia State Police have the wrong priorities.

"Clogging the highways with 'quota-charged' state troopers intent on issuing tickets hasn't, and never will, reduce traffic accidents," Baxter said in a statement.

Baxter suggested that a focus on improving traffic flow would yield superior results if safety is the primary goal. He said that construction activity should halt during holiday weekends with police instructed to respond quickly to accidents and offenses that interfere with the normal flow of traffic. Funds used to pay officers twice their normal hourly rate to work on a holiday weekend could be better spent, Baxter argued, on having tow trucks on standby to clear disabled vehicles out of travel lanes and to ensure "safe ride home" programs are publicized.

"In other words change the emphasis from 'threaten, enforce, punish, and penalize' to 'accommodate, assist, guide, and educate,' Baxter said. "Then we'll see the holiday travel fatality numbers move in the right direction -- downward."

The ninth phase of the Virginia State Police "Operation Air, Land and Speed" ends today with a massive ticketing blitz on Interstates 64 and 66. The blitz will use aircraft coordinated with troopers on the ground to issue speeding citations in the first effort of its kind on I-66 in Northern Virginia.

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