Causeway speeders may pay more

Tue, Mar 18, 2008

The Brunswick News

Two Glynn County commissioners think they know what might get motorists to slow down and drive safely on the F.J. Torras Causeway.

Tony Thaw and Uli Keller will ask the county commission Thursday to back a plan to double traffic fines on the county's portion of the four-lane highway from the Back River east to St. Simons Island.

The 4-mile-long causeway, which is a state highway that crosses from city to county jurisdiction, has a posted speed limit of 50 mph, except near Golden Isles Marina at the Frederica River, where the limit is 45 mph.

Existing speeding fines in the county jurisdiction range from $90 to $496, with city fines starting at $105 and topping at $525. If the county were to double its fines, the maximum would be $992.

Speeding wouldn't be the only traffic violation targeted by Keller, who represents the southern half of St. Simons Island, and Thaw, who represents the northern half. Also included would be the offenses of following too closely, failing to yield the right of way and weaving.

The idea of increasing traffic fines follows the deaths of three people in two fatal head-on collisions on the causeway since Dec. 26. It was first suggested during a March 7 meeting between city and county commissioners and officials from the state Department of Transportation.

"There were some real good ideas that came out of that meeting, and this was one of them that would be easy to implement," said Thaw. "I think increasing the fines, along with adding more signage to the causeway, are excellent ideas that we could get going in a short amount of time to make the causeway safer."
County Attorney Aaron Mumford is looking at the legal issues surrounding increasing the fines, Thaw and Keller said Monday.

"We have to make sure it's legal," said Keller.

"We will discuss the legalities with (State Court Judge Orion Douglass) and hopefully have the appropriate input before Thursday's meeting."

Both commissioners said the decision ultimately lies with State Court.

In an ongoing crackdown on hazardous driving, Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said Monday the number of traffic citations county police have issued on the causeway has doubled in one month. In January they issued 41; in February they issued 86.

"Anytime you increase police presence, whether in a neighborhood or on the street, it has a positive effect on driver behavior," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind that it's working."

Doering said the commissioners' proposal to double the amount of fines could be another effective safe driving tool.

"Anything that will compel people to drive safer is a good idea," he said.

The county commission is expected to take up the proposal at its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the historic county courthouse, 700 G. St., downtown.


Existing fines for speeding on the F.J. Causeway depend on speed and location.

The fine on the county portion, from the Back River to St. Simons Island, for going:

* 1 to 19 mph over the speed limit is $90.

* 20 to 29 mph over is $132.

* 30 to 34 mph over is $356.

* 35 mph or more over is $496.

The fine in the city portion, from U.S. 17 to the Back River for going:

* 10 to 14 mph over the speed limit is $105.

* 15 to 19 mph over is $132.

* 20 to 24 mph over is $158.

* 25 to 40 mph over is $263.

* 40 mph or more over is $525.