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Unintended Consequences

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 12:09:03 PM EST

Sometimes, in an attempt to please people and do something that is basically symbolic, politicians create unintended consequences. Here's one:

Bob McDonnell's "transportation plan" - for some unfathomable reason - so far has been composed of spending $7 million of VDOT's paltry maintenance money to open some rest stops along I-81 and proposing the increase of the speed limit on some stretches of interstate highway from 65 to 70 mph.

Nothing there for politicians to mess up, right? Well, not right. Lowell Feld on Blue Virginia has pointed out a story that is on NBC12's journal on Central Virginia politics, one that explains the glitch. (

The bill raising the speed limit passed the legislature at lightning speed and with bipartisan support. Evidently, no one thought of one problem related to raising the limit.

Note that I'm ignoring the obvious waste of gasoline through that law and the possibility of more injury and death from accidents. I'm simply going to look at something that might make some Virginians very angry, the very citizens the GOPers cater to.

Elaine in Roanoke :: Unintended Consequences
Existing state law reads that anyone caught going 20 miles over the speed limit, or 80 mph or higher, will be guilty of reckless driving. The punishment for reckless driving can be quite severe. Drivers guilty of reckless driving can be fined as much as $2,500 and face jail time, as well as getting six points on one's license and a six-month suspension of the license.

The Code of Virginia still says that driving 80 mph or more, regardless of what the speed limit is, constitutes reckless driving. The legislation rushed through the General Assembly didn't change that.  

So, if a person is found going 11 miles over the speed limit in one of these new 70 mph zones, that person could face fines not unlike the ones in the now-repealed state law GOP Del. Dave Albo pushed through a couple of years ago. That law was repealed because of the public uproar about the large fines.

The 70 mph speed zone is not completely new in the Commonwealth. A long stretch of I-85 south of Richmond going into North Carolina already has a limit of 70 mph. The experience of local lawyers in that area has been that they frequently represent drivers in court for reckless driving who face serious penalties for being caught going 11 miles or more over the speed limit.

Maybe this is just another of McDonnell's puny ways to raise a little money for transportation. Or, this may encourage localities to use traffic tickets to raise funds. Or, maybe the Republicans just didn't think things through when they rushed to pass this bill. Neither did the Democrats who jumped on the governor's bandwagon.

As for me, I shudder to think how bad I-81 will become with convoys of 18-wheelers flying along at almost 80 miles per hour in some stretches.

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consider another possibility
he is trying to get Trial Lawyers to be Republicans, and in order to do so he is trying to create more business for them -  defending those going 11 MPH over the speed limit.  I have been in Court with someone who got caught precisely on that, and needed a local lawyer to get it bargained down to speeding 9 MPH or thereabout over, with an agreement to complete defensive driving and aggressive driving courses to knock the points off - and prevent the insurance from skyrocketing.

This is my world and welcome to it

Depends on
how many stretches of how many highways would be covered by that speed limit change but... Any money they could get from speeding tickets would, probably, have to be spent on changing all the speed-posting signs...

Shades of the Past
I remember back in the late 1960's when I lived in Connecticut and was talking to a co-worker about my hailing from Virginia.

He told me that the only time he had paused while driving through Virginia was on his honeymoon. On the way to Myrtle Beach, he and his new bride were stopped for speeding (going 5 miles over the speed limit) in Bedford County.

All of us who lived in central Virginia at the time knew better than to go even one mile above the limit through the speed trap that Bedford was back then. My poor co-worker didn't know the drill.

Now, I guess we can have multiple speed traps all over the place, especially in a time of declining local revenue.  

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