Fines increase for speeding on Hwy. 12
Governor signs legislation hours after man dies
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Hank Shaw
By Hank Shaw
Capitol Bureau Chief
October 02, 2007 6:00 AM

SACRAMENTO - Blood Alley claimed another victim hours before politicians gathered to celebrate Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signing legislation that will double traffic fines along the stretch of Highway 12 between Interstates 5 and 80.

The driver of a big rig that flipped on the highway in Fairfield early Monday became the road's 10th fatality this year. The cause of that accident remained unclear Monday night.

Just last week, a 46-year-old man from Sacramento died near Rio Vista when he tried to pass several cars at once, then spun out of control and hit a pickup. A Record analysis of state crash data shows 73 deaths on Highway 12 since 2000.

Six hours after the truck driver, a 54-year-old Santa Rosa man, died of his injuries at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, lawmakers held a news event to tout the new double-fine zone for the area. The event had been prescheduled.

Sponsored by Assembly members Lois Wolk, D-Davis; Alan Nakanishi, R-Lodi; and Guy Houston, R-San Ramon, the measure means a driver caught speeding even 5 mph over the limit could face a fine of $204, plus court fees. Driving 76 mph in a 55 mph zone - a common practice on Highway 12 - will bring a fine of $445.50 plus fees.

The increased fines will begin Jan. 1.

Nakanishi said he expects the double-fine zone to help a bit, but he said the physical improvements to the highway in Solano County will do more to make the road safer. Solano authorities have installed median barriers and rumble strips on their stretch of the road.

"We want to do that also on the San Joaquin side," Nakanishi said.

This is the first double-fine zone bill Schwarzenegger has signed; he had vetoed several earlier double-fine bills because several studies suggest they are of limited utility in and of themselves. The state Transportation Department analyzed the effectiveness of double-fine zones in 2000 and found that when they are used as part of a package, the whole effort does reduce fatal and injury collisions, "but it is difficult to determine how much of the collision reductions are attributed to" the double-fine zone.

Wolk was instrumental in convincing the administration to approve this measure.

"Too many people have died on State Route 12 in recent years," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "Increasing enforcement, in conjunction with doubling fines for these violations, will help save lives. Motorists must get the message to slow down and drive safely."

Nakanishi said the real cure for Highway 12 will be to widen it to four lanes from Fairfield to Lodi. That possibility is especially expensive, however, because the peaty soils on the San Joaquin side of the road west of Interstate 5 shift, making construction tougher. And several bridges also would need to be widened - adding millions to the cost.

"Ultimately, we need a four-lane highway," Nakanishi said. "Even if it takes 25 years, I want to get people to talk about it. Unless we have a vision, a plan, people are going to forget about this in a few years."

Nakanishi said he is convening a town hall meeting on Highway 12 next Tuesday at Hutchins Street Square in Lodi. Caltrans Director Will Kempton is expected to attend, as are many other officials. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Contact Capitol Bureau Chief Hank Shaw at (916) 441-4078 or