Virginia lawmakers imposed steep new fees on bad drivers this year despite warning signs from states with similar programs that they cause a surge in unlicensed motorists and have crippling effects on the poor, reports the Washington Post. The licenses of tens of thousands of motorists in New Jersey and Michigan have been suspended because they cannot afford the fees, and little evidence has emerged that such fines improve highway safety. Lawmakers, judges and social activists in both states have sought to either repeal the fees or make major changes in how they are collected.
But once the programs are implemented, they are difficult to get rid of, because state lawmakers are unwilling to give up the revenue they raise. One Michigan judge called the law “a very destructive piece of legislation that is designed primarily for revenue purposes and is disguised as a highway safety measure.” In February, Virginia’s Republican-controlled Assembly voted overwhelmingly to assess fees as high as $3,000 on felony and misdemeanor convictions for such crimes as reckless and drunken driving. Lawmakers predicted the measures would improve highway safety and raise $65 million a year, to be used for new road and rail projects. Now, some legislators have deemed the measures “beyond repair.”