Virginia’s for Lovers, but not for people who fail to signal

Maryland could find itself with some new residents after July 1, when Virginia is set to impose hefty civil traffic fines. The “abuse fines” were tucked in the Commonwealth’s $1-billion 2007 transportation bill. At the time Virginia politicians, including Governor Tim Kaine, hailed the surcharges as both a way to fill a funding gap without raising taxes and a way to teach bad drivers a lesson. On the face of it, that’s a wise political move since southerners don’t like new taxes and they like their justice swift and certain, in theory at least… In reality, the looming fines have talk shows a’buzzing and blogs a’bloggin’. Callers to WTOP, a DC-area radio station, recently gave the governor an earful, some threatening to flee to neighboring Maryland. Those are strong words in context. Many Virginians have chosen to live in the Commonwealth because it has long been seen as a low-tax alternative to Maryland. Virginians are right to be up in arms. The fines are out of proportion to the driving offenses. Virginia residents convicted of misdemeanor or felony traffic violations will be assessed the new surcharges. For instance, Virginia residents convicted of reckless driving will face an additional $1,050 charge on top of the normal $100 fine. Out-of-state drivers convicted of offenses in Virginia – for reasons that are unclear to me – don’t pay the surcharge. An out-of-state resident convicted of drunk driving in Virginia pays $250. The Virginian pays an additional $2,250. See a general explanation of the new civil fines issued recently by the