The Herald Bulletin

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Editorials

March 24, 2014

Editorial: $1,000 fine too much for driving during advisories

It can be a real pain for county officials when people are out driving on the road in bad conditions and end up abandoning their cars.

That keeps plow drivers from clearing roads of snow, slowing down the whole operation and delaying the opening of roads so that other motorists can travel freely.

Still, a new proposal before Madison County commissioners seems to go too far in penalizing those who drive during travel restrictions. The new ordinance would levy a fine of up to $1,000 on motorists who travel during the highest-level travel advisories. Such motorists could also spend time in jail.

Part of the problem with this proposal is it creates a need for great discretion on the part of law enforcement officers. Those who provide essential services are exempt from travel restrictions, but the range of purposes that might be considered essential, in layman's terms, is hard to define.

Would someone who is going to check on an elderly relative not be serving an essential need? How about someone whose boss demands that they show up at work? Is it not essential to this motorist to drive despite travel restrictions?

While it's understandable that county officials would like to motivate motorists to stay at home when travel restrictions are imposed, a traffic citation with a lower fine seems like just punishment. A $1,000 penalty and the threat of jail time are simply too much.

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