Volunteering can replace traffic fine
With which would you rather part: $300 or 10 hours of your time?
The reason I ask is because the Michigan Secretary of State recently announced about 168,000 motorists are eligible to perform community service in place of paying cold hard cash for violating Driver Responsibility Laws.
OK, let's back up a bit, what is the Driver Responsibility Law?
In 2003, the Legislature approved a new set of fees targeting habitually bad drivers (those with seven points or more on their records) with the fees to be collected by the SOS. The fees are separate from (and in addition to) fines and costs assessed by the court.
The fees are also levied for the two consecutive years the citation points remain on a person's driver's license.
(As you might imagine, the fees set off a howl of protest, with critics pointing out it fines certain drivers twice, has a higher effect on lower-income families and was a naked grab by the state for more revenue.)
Certain fines (categorized as Level 2 violations) are pretty hefty: $1,000 (for two years in a row) for certain violations such as manslaughter, negligent homicide or felony resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle, off-road vehicle or snowmobile.
More are killing or injuring someone working in a road construction zone, failing to use care when passing an emergency vehicle, injuring or killing a police officer, firefighter or emergency medical services worker with a vehicle, causing death or serious injury while driving drunk or operating a commercial vehicle while drunk.
Fines of $500 are assessed for violations such as driving while impaired, driving while under 21 with any blood alcohol level above zero or driving while impaired with any passenger less than 16 years old.
Fee assessments apply to licensed and unlicensed drivers as well as out-of-state drivers convicted of qualifying offenses, or have accumulated seven or more points on their record, while driving in Michigan.
These Level 2 fees will remain in place. Drivers will not be able to work them off through community service.
Only drivers with Level 1 violations may swap 10 hours of community service in place of $150 fines for two years.
Those violations include a conviction of having no proof of insurance, no insurance, driving without proper license or endorsement, driving while your license is expired and driving while unlicensed or with an invalid license.
According to the secretary of state's office, over the next few weeks, letters will be mailed to the 168,000 motorists eligible for the community service program.
Under the program, community service is defined as "engaging in a useful and productive activity for someone other than a family member without receiving any compensation (money or gifts). Volunteer work at local nonprofits (organizations classified as a 501(c), churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and other places of worship, schools, or city and state agencies can count."
The community service program goes into effect Jan. 1 and will expire Dec. 31, 2015.
I-75: In Detroit, NB and SB will have only one lane open between the Lodge Freeway and Interstate 375 from 12 a.m. until 12 p.m. Saturday for a traffic shift. After 12 p.m. the right lane will remain closed until June for bridge work. The suggested detours are I-96 and I-94.
I-75: In Rochester, NB and SB will have intermittent lane closures at Featherstone from 8-9 a.m. Saturday for utility work.
I-94: In Detroit, EB will have the left lane closed from the Lodge to I-75 from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday for lighting work.
I-94: In Detroit, EB and WB will have the right lane closed between Chene and Conner from 5 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday for lighting work. Additionally, exit and entrance ramps will be closed intermittently.
I-275: In New Boston and Huron Township, NB and SB will have daily lane closures from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. between Sibley and Pennsylvania roads for utility work.
M-1: (Woodward): In Ferndale, SB south of Nine Mile will have daily single lane closures form 9 a.m. today until 3 p.m. Wednesday for utility work.
Woodward: In Royal Oak, SB south of 12 Mile will have daily single lane closures from Friday through 3 p.m. Wednesday for utility work.
M-10 (Lodge Freeway): In Detroit, the SB ramp to EB I-94 will be closed from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday for lighting work. The detour is SB Lodge to SB I-75 to WB I-96 to EB I-94.
M-59: In Pontiac, EB and WB will have intermittent closures at Opdyke from 9-10 a.m. Saturday for utility work.
I-94: In Detroit, EB and WB will have nightly single lane closures between Chene and Conner from 8 p.m. tonight until 5 a.m. Wednesday for freeway lighting work.