Surcharge to Be Designated for Safety in Old Saybrook

OLD SAYBROOK – The town will soon be receiving more money in its coffers thanks to a bill passed by the Connecticut General Assembly but First Selectman Michael Pace wants to make sure it does not get lost in the shuffle.

According to the Office of Legislative Research, the law, which went into effect July 1, would add a $10 surcharge on 35 motor vehicle violations including speeding, reckless driving, driving under the influence, making an illegal turn, failing to yield right of way, failing to stop for a school bus, and failing to stop at a stop sign.

The $10 surcharge would go toward the municipality where the violation occurred but Old Saybrook Police Lieutenant Michael Spera said Pace believed the money should not just be added to the town’s general fund but be directed toward specific initiatives regarding driver education and traffic enforcement.

Specifically, Spera said the money would be directed at meeting four objectives.

It would fund a driver education safety program, local traffic safety initiatives, purchase traffic safety equipment such as the radar machine informing motorists their speed, and matching regional, state, and federal grants for traffic safety control measures.

Spera explained that much money for law enforcement specifically for traffic safety initiatives is available from state and federal agencies if the municipality contributes a share of the money.

Old Saybrook Police Department is a generous department when it comes to deciding when to ticket those violating motor vehicle laws.

“Last year we gave out almost 3,000 pieces of paper, written warnings, and only 600 infractions,” Spera said, adding he does not expect to see $6,000 generated in the first year.

“There are some who did not plead guilty and it usually takes a while for a settlement and depends on if the judge allows the added charge,” Spera said.

Spera emphasized the surcharge will not change the goal of the police department into being a “money making endeavor.”

Officers will use the same discretion as they have in the past, Spera said, on whether to issue a written infraction for a violation.

Representative Jim Shapiro who proposed and championed for the law believes it “serves the important goal of changing drivers’ unsafe behavior” and has advocated municipalities to use the money for more enforcement.

In the end, “if you play by the rules, if you follow the law, your money will remain safely in your wallet where it should be,” Shapiro said, “For those who don’t and for those who practice dangerous behavior and put at risk you and your families and your constituents, they will have earned this fee, and hopefully, they will learn from it.”

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