Slow drivers could face higher fines

Posted: Tuesday, March 19, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Driving too slowly could cost more than driving too fast under a bill that passed the state Senate on Monday.

The Senate voted 17-1 in favor of a bill to increase the fine for drivers who have let five or more cars stack up behind them from $30 to $200.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Dave Donley, R-Anchorage, said the law would only apply if the road in front of the driver is unobstructed, if he is traveling under the speed limit and if it's safe for him to pull over to let others pass.

Donley said it's unfair and dangerous for a few drivers to ''own'' the road and set their own speed limit.

''Unlike the Lower 48, Alaska doesn't have an extensive four-lane highway system,'' Donley said.

The problem is particularly bad on the Seward Highway leading from Anchorage to the Kenai Peninsula, where slow-moving recreational vehicle drivers in the summer often hold up traffic behind them, he said.

The fine for exceeding the speed limit is $4 for each mile above the limit up to 19 miles above, said Greg Wilkinson, a spokesman for the Alaska State Troopers.

That amounts to a $76 fine for going 19 miles over the limit. Going 20 miles or more above the speed limit requires a court appearance.

Wilkinson said the department had no position on the bill, but added that slow-moving traffic on two-lane highways can be dangerous because frustrated faster drivers can be tempted to pass when it isn't safe.

''The basic issue is we don't want people attempting to pass in an unsafe manner, so would you please pull over,'' Wilkinson said.

Sen. Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, said he'd heard concerns the measure would cost violators two points on their driving record. He noted that losing a driver's license could severely limit mobility in more rural areas of the state.

Donley said two points is a relatively minor punishment.

''The intent was simply to make the fine significant enough that people would obey the law,'' Donley said.

A driver's license can be suspended or revoked for accumulating 12 or more points within 12 months or accumulating 18 points within 24 months, Wilkinson said.

Donley said the Department of Transportation has agreed to put up more signs letting motorists know of the law. That would cost about $30,000, he said.

Sen. Georgianna Lincoln, D-Rampart, cast the only vote against the bill. She said she needed more information and asked that the bill come up for reconsideration Wednesday.

If the outcome does not change on Wednesday, the measure will next go to the House.

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