Speeders, beware

You are driving along, not paying much attention to the posted speed limit, when you get pulled over for speeding. The officer gives you a ticket for doing 60 mph in a 45 mph speed zone. You request a reduction from the district attorney’s office, and are able to plea bargain your speeding ticket to “parking on pavement.”

You were successful in reducing a speeding ticket of 15 mph over the posted limit to a parking violation. You went from a fine of $90 to $300 and/or up to 15 days in jail, a mandatory surcharge of $88 to $93, and four points on your license, to a fine of only $0 to $150 plus a surcharge of only $25. And best yet, no points on your license.

Continuing this example, a year later you are again stopped for speeding, this time for 25 mph above the speed limit. Again you request a reduction. Upon review of your driving record by the DA’s office, because you were previously convicted of parking on pavement, there is no record of the fact that you were previously issued a four-point speeding ticket. Thus you are able to again obtain a reduction.

From the standpoint of traffic safety, hopefully these days are over, thanks to a change in DMV procedures that will make a driver’s ticket history during the past 10 years available to prosecutors and to the courts when the original charge was a point bearing violation, a drug or alcohol related offense, or was for aggravated unlicensed operation. Prior to this change, only data on convictions was available.

Information released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office revealed the problem. In 2010, in town, village, city and district courts, nearly 130,000 speeding charges were pleaded down from a speeding violation to “parking on the pavement.” In 2011, nearly 113,000 such pleas were accepted. Speeding convictions result in anywhere from three to 11 points on a license, depending on how many mph over the speed limit. If a motorist acquires 11 or more points within 18 months, his or her license may be suspended by the DMV. However, there are no points associated with a parking-on-the-pavement charge.

Pleading the original ticket down to a lesser charge has been a common practice because the prosecutor or the court is not aware that the driver has a pattern of dangerous driving behavior. By giving prosecutors and judges a more complete story of a person’s driving history they can make informed decisions and insure that potentially dangerous drivers no longer fall through the cracks, according to Gov. Cuomo.

For more articles on Vehicle and Traffic Law and traffic safety, visit the Traffic Safety Board’s website at www.franklincony.or and click on the Traffic Safety Board from the pull-down menu under departments. “Like” us on Facebook as well.