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Insight from WFPD: A need for traffic offense change

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opinion Fargo, 58102
Fargo North Dakota 101 5th Street North 58102

Did you know a simple Purchasing Power Calculator would set the relative value of a 20-dollar bill from 1960 at a value of $2.72 in 2010? This answer is obtained by multiplying $20 by the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index from 1960 to 2010.

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Did you know many of the current fees assessed for traffic violations were established in the 1950s or the 1960s? In my research into the history of traffic fees I was unable to locate the specific legislation establishing many of the current penalties. Not finding the information I then asked a retired Highway Patrol Officer. The Trooper responded that the fees were established in the 1950s or the 1960s. Without a solid date I am forced to rely on my own personal experience.

In 1975 I received my first speeding ticket in the City of Arthur from Cass County Deputy Oscar England. I was driving 13 mph over the 25 mph limit and received a citation. The fee was $13. In 1984 when I began my career in law enforcement in Casselton the fee for driving 13 mph over the 25 mph limit was $13. If I were on the street today and clocked a violator doing 13 mph over the limit within your residential neighborhood the fee would be $13.

During conversations with other drivers you may have heard them comment how they adjust their driving habits when they enter Minnesota or South Dakota because of the perceived harsher penalties. For comparison I would like to provide the following examples:

Speeding

Currently in North Dakota, speeding in a residential area 13 mph over the limit would be $ 13; 22 mph over the limit would be $ 31. In Minnesota speeding in a residential area 13 mph over the limit would be a fee of $125 (fine $40/ $75 surcharge/ $10 law library); 22 mph over the limit a fee $227 (fine $70/ $75 surcharge/ $10 law library/ $72 state general fund). In South Dakota speeding in residential area 13 mph over the limit is a fee of $110 (fine $56/ $40 liquidated costs/ $14 surcharge); 22 mph over the limit is a fee of $150 (fine $96/ $40 liquated costs/ $ 14 surcharge).

Disregard Stop sign

Currently in North Dakota, disregard of a stop sign would be $ 20. In Minnesota disregard of a stop sign is a fee of $ 135 (fine $50/ $75 surcharge/ $10 law library). In South Dakota disregard of a stop sign is a fee of $104 (fine $50/ $40 liquidated costs/ $14 surcharge)

In 2000 the City of West Fargo, following an Attorney General's opinion on the powers of Home Rule communities, did raise traffic fees slightly above those set by the State of North Dakota. While the increase in fees was not significant the public's awareness of the increase did affect driving habits within the city.

Drivers are constantly weighing risks of an accident or the penalty for a violation of law as they operate a motor vehicle in North Dakota. If the risk or penalty is low or inconsequential a driver will be willing to accept the risk or penalty and overdrive the conditions or violate the law. Your friends and neighbors will tell you the harsher penalties imposed in Minnesota and South Dakota do affect how they drive.

Over time there have been slight modifications to the North Dakota Century Code adjusting fees for certain traffic offenses. During each legislative session bills continue to be introduced to raise traffic fees for those traffic offenses which are of the greatest traffic safety concern. Not all of the bills are passed and fees for speeding, failure to yield the right of way and improper passing remain at 1960 levels. These three violations are listed as contributing factors in a significant portion of the traffic crashes which occur each year in North Dakota.

A Legislative interim committee study of the North Dakota Century Code Chapter 39 dealing with Traffic Offenses is currently under way. There will be several proposed changes introduced during the 2013 Legislative session. Law enforcement and traffic safety groups will also propose changes to the current laws in an effort to increase compliance and improve traffic safety. Ultimately it is the individual driver who will make the difference. Their driving decisions will be based on a desire for increased traffic safety or to avoid the threat of punishment.

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