Cost of breaking the law rises

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2003

Drivers with lead feet will find their wallets getting lighter if they get caught and ticketed in the city of Kenai.

While being a safe driver is always important, it has become even more so in Kenai, where the financial consequences of speeding, rolling through stop signs and other infractions have become about twice as expensive.

In May, the Kenai City Council passed an ordinance that raised the rates for its bail schedule -- the list of minor violations, like passing on the left, camping on private property or having a barking dog, that can be taken care of by paying a fine rather than going to court.

Kenai Police Chief Chuck Kopp explained in a council meeting that Kenai's previous bail schedule mirrored the state's, which has not increased since the 1980s.

Costs of things like paying officers to testify in court have gone up, but the fines charged for minor offenses have not risen to cover those costs. Anchorage's bail schedule, on the other hand, has increased incrementally to keep up with inflation. The new bail schedule the council approved in May reflects Anchorage's bail schedule, rather than the state's.

Lt. Kim Wannamaker of the Kenai Police Department said the increase was designed to keep up with rising costs, not to make money off speeders or other violators.

"Even though the city has some budget issues, this was not necessarily deemed a revenue generator as much as a goal of keeping the motoring public safe and efficiently enforcing traffic violations," he said.

In many cases, the fines imposed for minor violations have doubled. For instance a speeding ticket for going three to 19 mph over the limit used to cost $4 a mile and has risen to $8 a mile.

Other fixed-rate fines have increased as well, like the fine for failing to stop at a red light, which has gone up from $50 to $90.

The state-imposed surcharge that goes along with these fines has not changed, nor has the Division of Motor Vehicles drivers' licenses points system.

Wannamaker said Kenai generally is a safety-conscious community with a low incidence of traffic collisions. He hopes that trend continues through the high-traffic summer months.

Those who do cut corners in driving safety, or cut people off in general, will have a higher hit to their bank accounts to remind them to be more careful in the future. So far, however, Wannamaker said he hasn't heard grumbling over the increase in fines.

"There really have not been any negative complaints or feedback, although nobody likes getting a ticket to start with," he said.

For those who do mind the rules of the road, they won't notice the difference.

"It still won't affect good, conscientious drivers," he said.

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