Drivers who speed, litter, don't use their turn signals, blow past loading school buses or break dozens of other rules of the road will be subject to fine increases of up to several hundred dollars starting Tuesday.
Mayor Adrian Fenty approved increasing 71 traffic fines as wells as raising various business fees as part of an effort to balance the city's budget. The increases are projected to generate about $7 million this fiscal year, which ends in September.
The traffic fine increases include raising the penalty for following another car too closely from $25 to $100. The hit for swerving in your lane rises by the same amount, and the price for getting caught driving through a barricaded or closed street will climb from $25 to $500.
Drivers who don't tie a red flag to oversize loads will see fines of $250, up from $50.
D.C. traffic fine increases:
Infraction Old fine New fine Speeding 11 to 15 mph $50 $125 Speeding 16 to 20 mph $100 $150 Speeding 21 to 25 mph $150 $200 Speeding over 25 mph $200 $250 Driving too slow $15 $50 Broken speedometer $25 $75 No running lights $25 $75 Failure to yield $25 $100 Violating "No turn on red" signs $50 $100 Operating with high beams on $25 $75 Rolling right turn at red light $50 $100 Coasting $15 $75 Interfering with traffic when pulling from curb $25 $100 Not having windshield wipers $25 $75 Failing to secure loads $50 $250 Passing a stopped school bus that has lights flashing $50 $500
Increasing fines became a political hot potato two weeks ago. The D.C. Council balked at Fenty's attempt to have the council increase the fees and fines, saying the mayor could increase them himself.
AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend II predicted a public backlash against the fees, similar to what happened in Virginia when it instituted "abuser fees" for bad or dangerous drivers that ranged from $750 to $3,000. The General Assembly quickly repealed that unpopular law.
"This is the abuser fee without the name," Townsend said.
He added that increasing fees to raise revenue could "undermine" the public's trust in the city's police department, which may be viewed as more motivated to make the city money than to curb bad driving.
Not so, said police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump. She said the department won't see any extra money from the raised fines, and officers are motivated by "deterring dangerous driving that causes crashes, injuries and fatalities."
Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham said some increases in fines were justified to reach the same levels in Maryland and Virginia.
"Some of these increases in fines are long overdue because in many cases we hadn't looked at this traffic violation fine structure for decades," Graham said.
Dorcas Adkins, acting executive director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, said she hoped the increase in fines would lead to safer driving and "level the playing field" among cars, bikes and pedestrians.
"If you can't afford those fines, you don't have do those violations," Adkins said.