Doubled fines on the rise on I-295
Sunday, August 26, 2007
By Jonathan Vit firstname.lastname@example.org
State police patrolling two "safe corridors" through construction zones on Interstate 295 have issued more than 160 tickets since June for moving violations, many with doubled fines.
In New Jersey, construction zones can be designated as "safe corridors," heavily patrolled stretches of road between orange construction signs where fines may be doubled for speeding motorists.
"It improves safety and driver behavior," explained Department of Transportation spokeswoman Erin Phalon. "Fines are doubled for traffic violations in that area, and the funds are used for law enforcement improvements."
The extra money can fund a variety of law enforcement needs including radar units, crash data collection systems and protective vests. The money could also be used for overtime pay if the hours are spent patrolling a safe corridor.
Although a state trooper may determine whether to issue a double fine for violations in a safe corridor, the practice has become standard, explained Phalon.
Two safe corridors line sections of Interstate 295, including a four mile stretch through West Deptford Township and another two mile stretch through Logan Township.
In West Deptford Township, municipal court administrator Barbara Lilly said she has seen "a lot" of double fines coming through.
"A very decent amount," she said. "I mean a lot."
Lilly is seeing so many because motorists stopped for traveling more than 19 miles above the safe corridor speed limit are required to appear in municipal court.
Attorney David Bahuriak, of the Westmont-based Bahuriak Law Group, explained that even if the trooper did not issue a double fine, a municipal judge could if the violation occurred in a construction zone.
"In some courts, when the judge just takes judicial notice that this event took place in a safe corridor, they will take it upon themselves to double the fine," he said. "Some people are surprised."
As an attorney, Bahuriak has appeared in court numerous times to fight double-fine tickets on behalf of his clients.
Although the safe corridors program was created to protect construction workers from reckless highway drivers, the program's overuse has become a problem, Bahuriak explained.
"The biggest problem is, there are too many of them," he said. "Not all construction zones need this protection."
Explaining that an abundance of safe corridors is unlikely to affect driver behavior in the way intended, Bahuriak called for local governments to be frugal with the designation.
"People who work in these zones say ... the municipalities make so many that, in the places where they really need the help, no one is paying attention."
"Are they going to put up a sign saying, Now, this is the real construction zone'?" Bahuriak asked.