Double-check your assumptions on finesIf you get a speeding ticket in North Dakota, your fine is likely to be the same amount that your grandfather paid in 1972. That was 40 long years ago. So, the fines should go up, as a legislative committee decided last week.
By: Grand Forks Herald, The Jamestown Sun
If you get a speeding ticket in North Dakota, your fine is likely to be the same amount that your grandfather paid in 1972.
That was 40 long years ago. So, the fines should go up, as a legislative committee decided last week.
And if that happens, then traffic safety should go up, too. Right?
Well … maybe. And before the full Legislature takes the committee’s advice, lawmakers should make sure they can answer that question with a “yes.”
The news that banning cellphones does not seem to reduce car accidents should spark the curiosity of anyone interested in traffic safety.
Cellphones are intensely distracting; therefore, banning them “should” make a measurable difference on the highways. But like plenty of other “shoulds,” this one doesn’t pan out, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, among other sources.
Today, it’s easy to make a similar assumption about speeding: If North Dakota boosts its low, low fines, drivers will ease up on the gas pedal as a result.
But might that assumption be unfounded as well?
For the purposes of today’s editorial, let’s just say there’s a complicated relationship between traffic safety and speed. Here’s one example:
“In 1995, Congress repealed the 55-mph speed limit that had been on the books for two decades,” notes a 2010 column at Aol.Autos.com.
“Safety advocates predicted that highway death and injury rates would skyrocket. … Two years later, the predicted thousands more deaths and millions more traffic-related injuries per year didn’t materialize, however.
“According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1997’s traffic death rate dropped to a record low, with reported injuries declining by 66,000 between 1995 and 1997.”
And the highways today are safer still: “In 1995, the last year of the national 55-mph speed limit, there were 1.73 deaths per 100 million miles. The rate has dropped every year since but one, and now stands at the lowest recorded in 60 years, 1.13.”
Interestingly, Montana encountered this phenomenon, too, but in reverse. A 2001 study by the National Motorists Association “shows the safest period on Montana’s Interstate highways was when there were no daytime speed limits or enforceable speed laws,” the association reports.
“The doubling of fatal accidents occurred after Montana implemented its new safety program, complete with federal funding, artificially low speed limits and full enforcement.”
Here’s another twist: There is, in fact, a proven way to reduce both traffic speed and the accident rate, and that is to enforce speed limits with automatic “speed cameras.”
“A considerable amount of research has shown that automated speed enforcement reduces crashes,” the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety declares.
Before lawmakers raise the fines on speeding tickets in North Dakota, they should undertake or commission this kind of research. What has happened in other states that have raised fines? What is likely to happen in North Dakota? Can raising the fines be justified for reasons other than boosting state and municipal revenue … and would even those increases actually take place?
Lawmakers shouldn’t assume they know the answers. They should find out for sure. And depending on what they learn, they might wind up boosting not only the fines but also North Dakotans’ confidence in the quality of governance in their state.