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New law aims to slow 'super speeders'
But critics argue more enforcement, not fines, will deter fast drivers
Georgia State Trooper 1st Class Steve Thompson checks the speed of traffic heading north on Cleveland Highway. - photo by Tom Reed

Starting today, Georgia’s worst lead foots will have to dig deeper into their wallets if they get caught speeding.

The state’s new “Super Speeder” law tacks on an additional $200 fine for drivers caught going 85 mph or more in a four-lane, divided highway or 75 mph or more on a two-lane road.

In Hall County, cars traveling along Ga. 365 (speed limit 65 mph) and Interstate 985 (speed limit 70 and 65) often reach 85 mph or more, officials say.

“Eighty-five on a four-lane is common,” said Sgt. Dean Allen, post commander for the Georgia State Patrol’s Gainesville post. “People have not slowed down on the interstate too much.”

The law was promoted by Gov. Sonny Perdue’s office as a two-fold answer to deadly crashes: reducing speed-related accidents while using the $200 fine to shore up a severely underfunded Georgia trauma care network. The governor’s office estimated the fine could raise as much as $24 million annually for trauma care.

The law had its share of critics in the general assembly, however.

State Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, said because there was no constitutional amendment that dedicated the new fines for trauma care, there’s no guarantee that’s where they will go. Under the law, the money goes into the state’s general fund.

“In what I’ve seen in the state legislature, many times this money gets sucked into the system, and doesn’t go where it’s supposed to,” Collins said.

Collins also has a problem with the fact that the fine will be assessed by a state agency — the Department of Drivers Services — after the case is adjudicated and ordinary speeding fines are paid in a local court.

“At a later date, you’re going to get a $200 bill from Driver Services,” Collins said. “A lot of people are going to ignore that, thinking they already paid it, then if their fine is not paid, their license is going to be suspended.”

Collins also said he believes many people, particularly younger drivers, will have a hard time paying speeding fines that could reach $500 or more, depending on the circumstances.

“I believe more enforcement is a better way of slowing people down,” Collins said. “A state trooper on the side of the road running radar gets your attention. Nobody thinks about how much they’re going to have to pay when they’re going down the road.”

Hall County State Court Solicitor Stephanie Woodard said she anticipates the new law will cause more people to contest their speeding ticket in court, demanding trials before a judge.

“I do think it will affect our dockets,” Woodard said.

Katie Fallon, a spokesperson for the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, said the new law is not revenue-driven.

“It’s not about collecting money, it’s really about saving lives,” Fallon said. “We’d be tickled if we didn’t collect any money, because that would mean people are slowing down and there are less speed-related deaths.”

The office said in 2008, 309 traffic deaths, or 21 percent of all fatal crashes, were speed related. In 2005, nearly half of the state’s 89,000 speed-related convictions were offenses of 15 to 20 mph over the speed limit.

Allen, the state patrol post commander, was candid when asked if he thinks the new law will serve to slow folks down.

“No, I don’t,” he said. “You’ve got two types of people — those who speed and take chances and those who don’t speed. And it doesn’t matter if they get caught or when they get caught or how much it’s going to cost them, because they usually have one thing on their mind, and that’s getting from point A to point B.”