Danville speeders seeing blue this summer

October 22, 2003|GARY MOYERS

Drivers in Danville may well remember the just-ended summer as The Year of the Blue Light.

Beginning in May, Danville police officers sent speeding drivers to court to pay fines in numbers dwarfing those of the previous year. That month, there were 523 speeding tickets issued inside the city limits, more than double the amount issued in April (207).

The numbers have been up, on average, the rest of the summer, compared to the previous year.

In fact, in the period of April through September, tickets in Danville are up by more 77 percent (1,640-926) compared to the same period in 2002. Information provided by Boyle Circuit Court shows revenue from the tickets was up by more than $10,000 for September 2003, compared to the same month in 2002.

Has Danville become a "speed trap?"

Is a tight government financial situation prompting local police to "up their quotas" of tickets to boost revenue?


Assistant Chief Jay Newell said no to both questions.

"I think every police officer who has ever written a speeding ticket has heard that quota question," he said. "I can't speak for other cities, but we don't have a quota system here. We simply write the ones we see. This year we've had more officers on the streets at more times, so we're going to see more violations. We're looking for them."

As for speed traps, "We don't make a secret of the fact that we're on the roads looking for moving violations," said Newell. "Any place where speeding is prevalent, we attempt to police. That's not a speed trap; that's enforcement of the law. Moving, hazardous violations are our main concern, because they're the ones that pose an immediate danger to other motorists. Basically, we're trying to eliminate the unsafe factors that contribute to collisions, and speeding is one of those unsafe factors."

Increase in tickets doesn't result in more money for Danville

The increase in ticketable offenses hasn't resulted in a financial windfall for the City of Danville.

For every traffic conviction, a General Assembly-mandated court fee of $110.50 is assessed. The violation fine is then added, which varies from $20 for a basic violation like an obstructed windshield, to $60 for speeding 21-25 miles per hour over the limit.

For example, a typical speeding ticket on Fourth Street, where the limit is 35 miles per hour, might be for $30, or 15 over the limit. That makes the total court cost and fine $140.50, assuming the driver elects to pay the fine rather than attend traffic school.

Of that $140.50, how much goes to the City of Danville?


Marti Pittman, bookkeeper for Boyle Circuit Court where fines are paid, said the idea that more tickets mean more money for the city is a common misconception.

"We get a lot of startled looks from people when they come in to pay their $30 speeding ticket and find out the bill is $140.50," said Pittman, who has served as bookkeeper for 11 years. "Most people believe the majority of the money goes to the city, and they immediately think when tickets go up, the police are trying to meet a quota system, that the city is short of money. That's not the case, because the city doesn't benefit financially from tickets."

Pittman said the $110.50 in court costs, per HB 452 as of Aug. 1, 2002, are allocated as follows:

* 49 percent to the state's General Fund.

* 10.9 percent to the state's Local Facilities Construction Fund.

* 6.5 percent to the state's spinal cord head injury research.

* 5.5 percent to the state's Deputy clerk enhancement fee.

* 3.5 percent to the state Public Advocacy fund.

* 0.7 percent to the state's Justice Cabinet.

* 10.1 percent to the state's Sheriff Security fund, which is then disbursed to counties at the end of the year.

* 5.5 percent to Boyle Fiscal Court's jail fee fund.

* 50 cents to the county's law library maintenance fund.

Pittman said the fine for the offense itself - $30 in the aforementioned example - goes directly to the state's General Fund.

"The city gets nothing unless an arrest is made, then they get an arrest fee," said Pittman. "That doesn't apply, of course, in most speeding cases. And the money paid to the county is mandated for specific purposes."

More officers means more tickets

Newell said the reasons for the increase in tickets include more officers working more hours, coupled with unusual traffic patterns this summer.

"We have nine more officers this year than last," said Newell. "Those officers went on the street this summer after they completed their field training, and May and June is when they came on duty, for the most part. More motorized patrols are going to mean more violators caught."

Newell said many of the new officers were placed on second and third shifts, and that's when most speeders are caught.

"During the day, most people are at work, and there's not as much speeding," he said. "The second and third shifts, when people are out and about, that's when we're going to catch most speeders."

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