City to look at increasing traffic fines

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The Steamboat Springs City Council will look at raising its fines for speeding tickets and other traffic violations at Tuesday's meeting.

The proposal is to increase fines by 66 percent for most traffic violations and to double fines for violations in school and construction zones.

After looking at Steamboat's traffic fines compared to other municipalities in the state, Municipal Court Judge Paul Sachs proposed the increases. The city compiled the fine systems of more than 20 other municipalities.

"We haven't increased them in over ten years, and this will put us more in line with what other jurisdictions charge," Sachs said. "We did a survey, and we are probably (one of) the lowest in the state."

The proposal calls for increasing fines from $15 a point to $25 a point. A speeding ticket for 10 to 19 miles above the speed limit is four points, which would mean an increase from a $60 ticket to a $100 ticket.

A speeding ticket for more than 19 miles above the speed is six points, which would mean an increase from a $90 ticket to a $150 ticket.

The increases would put the city in the upper mid-range of fines throughout the state.

Sachs also proposes to increase seat belt violations from $15 to $50 for adults and $50 to $80 for children. In Colorado, it is the law that all drivers and anyone in the front seat of a vehicle must wear a seat belt while the vehicle is being operated.

Failing to wear a seat belt is a secondary violation; meaning law enforcement officers cannot pull people over only for not wearing seat belts.

Sachs said the city's fines for seat-belt violations have been much lower than other jurisdictions and that he wanted a fine that would act as a deterrent.

"The seat-belt fine we've been assessing barely amounts to a pat on the wrist, and I feel the increase is a bit more of a slap and hopefully more of a deterrent," Sachs wrote in a memo to the council. "The increase in the fine for children reflects the severity with which I feel we should treat such an offense"

The proposal to double fines for violations in construction zones comes from direction in the Model Traffic Code, which the city has adopted. Signs already indicate that fines are doubled in those areas, Sachs said.

Sachs proposal would just change the amount per point. The number of points per violation will remain the same, he said.

"A number of jurisdictions have more complex systems," he said. "This seems to work well for our size."

The fines apply to all traffic violations within the city limits.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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