Roughly 168,000 Michigan residents are starting the new year with a chance to avoid hundreds of dollars in traffic fines by doing volunteer work instead.
Thanks to a new law taking effect Wednesday, motorists will have a one-year window in which they can get out from extra “responsibility” fees for certain offenses – having no proof of car insurance or driving without a valid license, for example. A 2012 law repealed additional penalties for those offenses, but many drivers still owe $150 to $200 in annual fines that were previously levied on them for two straight years.
The state is mailing letters to eligible motorists. To waive each qualifying assessment, a driver must complete 10 hours of community service.
“The elimination of fees for lesser driving violations removes some unintended consequences of the original law,” said state Treasurer Kevin Clinton, who called the community service component “a win for everyone involved.”
The law is tied to a measure that will phase out all responsibility fees over a four-year period beginning this October. Those two-year fees include $200 for having seven points on a driving record (plus $100 for each additional point); $2,000 for serious offenses such as drunken driving; and $1,000 for driving recklessly or with no insurance – a more serious but less frequently issued ticket than having no proof of insurance.
The responsibility fines were created in 2003 to get irresponsible drivers off the road and raise more money to deal with slumping state revenues. Lawmakers consider the fees unfair, however, and say they make driving and insurance more difficult to afford.
Other new laws will go into effect Thursday or early in January, include:
A loophole will be closed so motorcyclists can no longer buy a temporary permit every riding season without taking a safety or skills test needed for a full endorsement. The 180-day permit lets motorcyclists ride during the day and without a passenger as long as they’re supervised by a licensed motorcycle operator. But enforcement is difficult, and motorcycle advocates say some bikers are repeatedly getting temporary permits to avoid testing. American Bikers Aiming Toward Education (ABATE) says 58 percent of riders killed in motorcycle crashes in 2012 weren’t fully licensed.
Police will be able to conduct a preliminary roadside analysis for drugs and other intoxicating substances in addition to alcohol. A conditional bond is to be placed on motorists arrested for drugged driving and the information is to be entered into a law enforcement database.
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