ATLANTA — Attention all Georgia lead feet: slow down or get ready to pay.
The state’s “super speeder” law takes effect today and for those busted driving well above the speed limit it will mean stiff new fines.
The law tacks on an additional $200 charge for drivers topping 85 mph on four-lane roads and interstate highways, or 75 mph on two-lane roads. Those extra fines are on top of the original speeding fine, which officials said vary from one jurisdiction to another.
Drivers who don’t pay up will have their licenses suspended
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Gov. Sonny Perdue has been pushing the measure since 2007. The Republican-led state Legislature finally approved it earlier this year as a way to find cash to help the state’s struggling trauma centers.
Perdue said he hopes the fines will encourage reckless drivers in the state to slow down and save lives in the process. He’s voiced public service announcements airing on radio stations warning Georgians about the crackdown.
Each year, traffic crashes on Georgia’s roadways cause more than 1,600 fatalities, roughly a quarter of them blamed on excessive speeds, state officials said. The accidents have strained Georgia’s emergency rooms.
The fines are expected to bring in about $23 million a year, which Perdue said is intended for the state’s cash-starved network of trauma hospitals.
It remains to be seen whether the money ends up there. The fines will be funneled into the state’s general fund, which means state lawmakers will ultimately decide how the money is spent. Georgia is facing a huge budget shortfall.
A 2007 legislative study committee concluded the state’s trauma network is in crisis. The committee found the death rate in Georgia from traumatic injury is far greater than the national rate.
Hospital officials support the new law but say even if the fines meet expectations they still won’t come close to making up for more than $170 million in uncompensated care the medical facilities provide each year. That’s largely due to uninsured victims who are rushed in for lifesaving care.
The staggering costs of providing trauma care have led some to drop the voluntary “trauma” designation. That has left large swaths of rural Georgia without trauma care centers.
Trauma centers differ from regular acute care hospitals in that they have teams of specialty surgeons — like orthopedists and neurosurgeons — on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.