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Super speeders not the cash cow expected
Fines mailed out in first 6 months would net $3.4 million of expected $23 million in a year
Georgia State Patrol trooper Jordan Stamey clocks traffic Thursday on Ga. 365 near White Hall Road. The “Super Speeder” law, which has been in effect since Jan. 1, tacks on an additional $200 fine for drivers caught going 85 mph or more on an interstate or divided highway or 75 mph or more on a two-lane road. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

When Georgia State Patrol Sgt. Dean Allen pulls motorists over for driving more than 85 miles per hour on Ga. 365, drivers know it’s going to cost them.

Since Georgia’s “super speeder” law took effect in January, driving 85 mph or more on an interstate or divided highway or 75 mph or more on a two-lane road tacks on an extra $200 to the standard fines.

“I’ve stopped some of them, and they know about the law,” Allen said. “They say, ‘is this going to make me a super speeder?’ So they knew what it was while they were doing it. I’m sure it’s slowed some people down, but others, they’re just willing to take that chance.”

The first six months of statewide data shows the rate of citations written for super speeders is not near what was predicted, however.

Between January and June, the Georgia Department of Driver Services has mailed out 17,104 super speeder notices, said Susan Sports, a spokeswoman for the agency.

The DDS collects the $200 super speeder surcharge, but only mails out notices after the driver has been adjudicated guilty of the underlying speeding violation, Sports said. There is also a time lag in the collection numbers because violators have 90 days to pay the surcharge.

Still, the amount collected so far — $705,000 — is a small percentage of the $23 million the new law was projected to bring in annually for trauma care.

The 17,104 super speeder notices mailed out so far would net the state about $3.4 million, if paid.

Sports said the state will need more than a year’s worth of numbers to see how much revenue the surcharge actually brings, due to the lag time in the courts and in paying the fines.

“I think it’s too early for any conclusions to be drawn because of the limited data we have so far,” Sports said.

Officials with Hall County courts and the Department of Public Safety said there was no way to break down the number of super speeder citations to a county level.

When Gov. Sonny Perdue pushed for the super speeder legislation, he said it would bring an estimated $23 million into the general fund that could be used to prop up Georgia’s underfunded trauma care network.

But Bert Brantley, a spokesman for Perdue, said Friday that money was never the primary focus of the law.

“We did the super speeder projections based on the best information we had,” Brantley said. “If they come in not as high, we’ll have to adjust the revenue numbers moving forward. But it was really never meant to be about revenue generation. It was more meant to hopefully slow people down and keep people safe, and that would be the best result of all.”

Fewer crashes would mean less expense to Georgia’s trauma network, Brantley noted.

Bob Dallas, director of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, said there have been 569 crash fatalities on the state’s roads so far this year, a decrease of 106, or 16 percent, from the same time period in 2009.

“I can’t tell you this is all because of super speeder,” Dallas said. ‘We have a number of programs in place trying to improve driver behavior, and super speeder is certainly one of the laws. Perhaps what we’re seeing is that people driving closer to the speed limit is producing tremendous positive outcomes.”