It’s Cheap to Drive Badly

By Peter DePaolis

The drivers with the lead foot I referenced in my last post seem to come with no serious threat of repercussions. Specifically, the average penalty for most driving offenses is $25 or $50. Compared with the fine amounts for parking in a handicapped space ($250) or covering tags ($500), it is obvious that DC has a problem. “As a District police commander said, small fines made it ‘cheap to drive badly’ in the District.”

In other words, a driver running late for work could fail to yield at a crosswalk, almost hit a pedestrian, and pay between $25 and $50. While the same late driver could park in a handicapped space at his office and risk paying a fine that is five times more than the one mentioned above. Think about it this way: the first scenario threatens the life of another human being, while the second scenario does not; yet, the law has placed larger fines to deter citizens from the latter. Call me crazy, but something doesn’t add up here. Why would there be a larger deterrent on an act that has zero risk of endangering an innocent life? Needless to say, the Council for Court Excellence wondered the same thing.

The Protecting Pedestrians report explains, “Low levels for penalties fail to act as a deterrent, and do not give police officers an incentive to enforce because they see little value in apprehension.” The disproportional fine system in DC indirectly causes the devaluation of pedestrian lives. Although this is certainly not the intention, the current sanctions should be increased to mirror the dangers reckless drivers thrust onto innocent walkers.

As stated in the report, “In addition to recommending a major increase in fines for failing to yield to pedestrians, the Committee proposed that penalties for a number of other pedestrian-related violations by motorists be raised to levels as high as $300 per offense to discourage dangerous behavior.” To the Council for Court Excellence, I must say that I could not agree more. Taking steps like these brings awareness to the poor driving habits that have become prevalent throughout the DC streets.

If you agree with increasing and creating new fines for reckless driving, please call Councilmember Mary Cheh in support of the Careless Driving Amendment Act of 2012.


Protecting Pedestrians Report

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.