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  1. #1
    Yoda of Radar
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    Jun 2005

    Default VA - Rage Over Driver Fees Has Va. Legislators Asking, 'Huh?

    Rage Over Driver Fees Has Va. Legislators Asking, 'Huh?'

    By Marc Fisher
    Sunday, August 26, 2007; Page C01

    N obody in Richmond predicted that Virginians would rise up in a hot summer snit, cussing and seething over the injustice of spanking the state's most reckless drivers with big, fat fees.

    See, the politicians thought they were doing what they do best -- threading the needle of transportation funding to make no one very happy but keep the grumbling to a minimum and sort of get the job done.

    But the imposition of abuser fees -- charges that can soar to thousands of dollars for those who get caught driving recklessly or commit other major traffic offenses -- has instead sparked a firestorm that has stunned state legislators. Now, just a few days before they move into full-time campaigning to keep their jobs, many lawmakers still don't get why the abuser fees issue exploded as it has.

    Since when do ordinary people take up the cause of offenders such as the 5 percent of drivers who are eligible for abuser fees because of their bad records? Since when do Virginia's supposedly hard-core anti-tax voters slam their lawmakers for avoiding a general tax increase by slipping in fees aimed at some small group?

    Well, since the Internet changed the speed and power flow in politics, says Del. David Albo, the Fairfax Republican who finds himself the target of much of the popular rage. Albo has the misfortune to be the guy who pushed through the abuser fees and the double trouble of making his living as a lawyer specializing in traffic cases.

    In the wild world of Virginia political blogs, that made Albo Public Enemy No. 1 -- accused of concocting a dishonest way to raise money for transportation projects, making it extra unfair by exempting out-of-state drivers from the fees and topping it off by working in a field in which he stood to profit from an increase in court battles over these fees.

    Albo has spent his summer figuring out how this thing ballooned. He says those first blog posts in July inflamed the masses by inaccurately reporting that the new law threatened all Virginia drivers with fees of more than $3,000 for having a bald tire.

    "To get that kind of fee, you'd have to literally kill someone," Albo protests. He had interns spend countless hours searching the 174,000 names on an anti-abuser fee online petition to find 750 voters from his district, who then got letters from their delegate spelling out what the law really says. The response to those letters? All of four notes.

    To combat the misinformation, Albo created a Web site listing facts about the new law. "As of right now, it has 254 hits," he says. "Versus 200,000 names on the petition against the fees. I can't compete, man. I can't compete with a person who's nameless and faceless and pushes a button and tells people you're going to get an abuser fee if you get a traffic ticket."

    Albo, who insists he won't get new business from the abuser fees, says it was a mistake to exclude out-of-state drivers, and that can and will be fixed. Still, he says: "I've never seen anything like this. Normally, people are fine with raising money in a way that doesn't affect everybody."

    It's not just politicians who got slammed. The AAA's longtime Washington area honcho, Lon Anderson, has been trying to calm members who are appalled that the drivers' lobby supported these fees. AAA has long opposed mixing policing with fundraising, but Anderson went along with this plan to avoid a gas-tax increase and get money for new roads.

    He, too, says the fire was fanned by bloggers hawking an inaccurate version of the law's provisions. "They portrayed this as if you're going to have to pay $1,000 if you're caught going 75 in a 55, when the fact is that only the worst drivers will get hit, and they're the ones who cost us all more on our insurance," he says.

    But it was not the mere existence of blogs that created the uproar. As Anderson notes, abuser fees offend our sense of fair play. We despise selfish creeps who get tanked up and kill our children on the highways. But we feel for the struggling parent who gets pulled over for going 76 in a 55 mph zone on I-95 because she was late to pick up her kid at day care.

    Yes, a new technology is changing the tempo of politics, which, like life generally, keeps accelerating to levels our grandparents could not imagine. But no, there is nothing new under the sun. Even if bloggers saw this issue as the perfect populist grievance, even if the voters who signed petitions and pledged to throw the bums out did act on misinformation, the bottom line is an old-fashioned one:

    People want the folks who represent them to lay it on the line. They crave honesty and rebel against sneakiness and duplicity.

    Abuser fees, even if they serve a good social purpose, were not imposed to make roads safer. They were designed to raise money because the politicians could not bring themselves to pass a genuine, aboveboard tax increase.

    The abuser fees managed to unite left and right, Democrats and Republicans in common outrage.

    "This feels sneaky, it feels underhanded, it's too 'professional politician,' " says Alexandria-based Republican consultant Craig Shirley. "People would have preferred a straight-up debate on taxes. The Internet is making people more and more comfortable with pushing back against their government, but this response is classic Virginia. It's been part of our culture for hundreds of years to not let government step on us."

    "Call it what it is: a tax increase," says Democratic consultant Mudcat Saunders, who is based in Roanoke and is working for presidential candidate John Edwards. "This is all about lack of trust in government. Now the politicians react by telling the voters they're ignorant. No! You don't ever tell voters they don't understand."

    Even if the common reading of the abuser fees is based on inaccuracies, the fees feel unfair, and unfair loses every time. A bunch of legislators may have to learn that the hard way.
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  2. #2
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    Nov 2004


    Those politicians don't understand because they are obviously too stupid to realize that reckless driving is not really reckless driving in Virginia in a lot of cases.

    In Virginia going 81mph in a 65mph zone = Reckless Driving
    In Virginia on Interstate 85 where the speed limit is 70mph, simply going 11 over the limit when the speed limit is 70mph = Reckless Driving
    Not using your turn signal when changing lanes can be Reckless Driving.

    Virginia law has many situations that qualify for reckless driving that really isn't reckless driving. People that don't really drive recklessly get reckless driving charges all the time in Virginia because of the f*cked up laws.

    So if any of you stupid politicians are reading this, now you know why people are upset. The biggest problem was the reckless driving laws all along, but it wasn't enough to make the majority of people get upset. The new admin fees are the catalyst for the "blow back" of Virginia's harsh driving laws.

    In my personal opinion, we should keep the fees but only if we stop making 81mph or faster reckless driving regardless of the speed limit and get rid of the other stupid reckless dirving classifications.

  3. #3


    The other part that seems wrong to me is that they (gov't) have wasted millions on construction, especially bonuses, for I64 and it still sucks. It took years to get a few miles of I64 finished. It was over budget and late and still bonuses were given.
    When the new rules came out in Jul, the details were not explained clearly. Maybe it's not a bad idea in the end, but it was the beginning that the foolish politicians screwed up.

  4. #4

    Default virginia

    Del. David Albo must be such a dirt bag. And how is he not going to receive more business from these taxes??? I guess maybe if everybody knows who he is and chooses not to hire any lawyers from his firm, which would be nice.

    This backlash is exactly what Virginia needs. I hope every politician who supported these ridiculous and unfair taxes gets pounded come election time. And I hope many people cancel their AAA memberships. I know I'll never get an AAA membership knowing this.

    And maybe this backlash will cause Virginia to realize that their "reckless driving" definition is crap and change it. But probably not.

  5. #5
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    Feb 2007


    I just love this, politician upset that their own tactic worked against them. So blogger (which I think he means all of us) took the information and spun it to get people all fired up over something that in really probably would only affect a small group of chronic abuser. But in the end the entire population could be affect.

    The best part is when the guy said hey people usually do not mind when we raise money form the very few. So it okay to take money from people as long as it not a majority of the people who vote for me.

    This is like PA and the Legislators raising their pays over night by 50% and this people thought it was ok as long as people didn't realize they did it and it would only be a few dollars out of everyone homes. Needless to say when the public got hold of it the spun to get everyone going and we voted their a$$ out.

  6. #6


    Hi everyone,

    I think steathJamal hits the nail on the head regarding VA's reckless driving laws. Its pretty funny that the only way the republicans in the VA legislature feel that they can get re-elected is not to raise taxes -- no matter what -- regardless of how dire a tax increase is needed in order to repair and properly maintain VA roadways. They "just say NO!" to a tax increase. But its not really their fault since Bush has drained the coffers simply because he believed that he was on a mission from God to bring democracy to the Middle East. Thus federal funding which many states sorely need has simply dried up, leaving each state to fend for itself as best it can.

    Now, the really funny stuff:

    -- Bonuses for completing a construction project which was both over budget and completed well after schedule?

    -- 11mph over a PSL of 70mph is reckless driving?

    -- Not using your turn signal can be considered reckless driving?

    -- Judges given absolutely no discretion regarding whether or not to impose the stiffer fines? Of course this was taken away from judges since Albo's number crunchers had done the math, based on the percentages of various driving infractions, to guarantee the legislature that a certain amount of revenue would be generated.

    -- But the real kicker is Albo getting upset when he thinks that too much spin has been put on the issue because he claims that the public doesn't "have all of the facts". He's pretending to be just a little too high on the horse, integritywise, to even pretend to be upset that the public is upset because they supposedly don't have all of the facts. Albo seems to have forgotten one basic tenet of our American way of life -- that the punishment should fit the crime. The public doesn't need all of the facts -- no matter what they consider his new fines to be inherently unjust.

    -- Albo is upset about the "spin" supposedly being applied by some members of the public regarding these draconian fines? Isn't the ability to apply "spin" one of the obvious defining talents for being a politician? Obviously he is upset that his own "spin" which he used to get these draconian fines enacted into law has blown up in his face.

    -- He claims that he is working on fixing the issue that the new fines currently don't apply to out-of-state motorists. If Albo gets these fines applied to out-of-state motorists, then I am sure that this mess will end up in the US Supreme Court.

    -- And then there is the glaring conflict of interest since his law firm specializes in traffic cases.

    Obviously long ago Albo forgot that he serves at pleasure of the people who elected him. He now is getting a very sharp reminder of this fact. Apparently Albo substitutes balls for his obvious lack of intelligence.

    Well, thats my rant for the month!


  7. #7
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    Feb 2007


    Quote Originally Posted by MEM-TEK
    -- He claims that he is working on fixing the issue that the new fines currently don't apply to out-of-state motorists. If Albo gets these fines applied to out-of-state motorists, then I am sure that this mess will end up in the US Supreme Court.
    Actually, if they apply this to out of state drivers like ones from PA, you can pretty much ensure that PA will not enforce the fines if residents of PA choose not to pay them. Part of being in the Pack between states is to be fair and equal between states. It was to make sure people did not ignore other states laws. That will be out the window that is for sure.

  8. #8
    Lead Foot
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Land of Lincoln



    If they applied that to out of stater's. Time to boycott VA big time.

    I have stayed out of VA state due to their anti-radar detector laws.

    Just like I stay out of Chicago due to their anti-gun Mayor and his side kick we call a Governor. I choose to spend my money that is more friendly to things I like.

    Take care,




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