The state of Virginia recently hiked traffic fines so that going 20 mph over the limit can result in a fine of $1000. If you're caught driving under the influence for a third time or if you're "felony reckless driving," the fine is $3000. Other offenses result in similarly high fines.
While the motivation of the state legislators was to increase revenue, I applaud efforts to make dangerous driving more painful to those who commit the crime. While roads generally have become safer for drivers and car occupants, traffic fatalities have gone up significantly over the past few years. Safer cars with better crash protection, better suspension, better brakes, and more powerful engines just means you can drive even more like a bonehead. Drivers are more likely to wreck their cars, but the wrecks are more survivable as long as you happen to be inside the metal cage. Wrecks are also more likely for the more vulnerable users of our road systems -- pedestrians and cyclists -- but the improved crash worthiness protection doesn't extend to us.
Unfortunately, many Virginians are so outraged by these new fines that the state legislator will meet in a special session just to repeal the fees. If you live in Virginia and support safer driving, contact your local representative and let them know of your support.
One drawback to high fines: Police are less likely to write tickets if they feel the fine is excessive. That's one reason many cops don't enforce traffic laws on cyclists.