Seven speeders already face extra $200 fine

They might not know it yet, but seven drivers caught going too fast on Augusta-area roads will soon be receiving a $200 fine in the mail as part of Georgia's new "super speeder" law.

So far, authorities said, they have issued six citations in Richmond County and one in Columbia County that meet the criteria for the new law, which went into effect Jan. 1.

Anyone caught traveling 85 mph on four-lane roads and interstate highways or 75 mph on two-lane roads will face a $200 state fine on top of the local jurisdiction's speeding fine.

In Richmond County, sheriff's Maj. Richard Weaver said deputies handed out tickets for people doing 85 mph on Interstate 20, 87 mph on Bobby Jones Expressway and 80 mph on Deans Bridge Road. They also ticketed two people for doing 75 mph on Washington Road.

One person was also cited on Washington Road by the Georgia State Patrol for going 76 mph.

Columbia County sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris said his office had cited one person for going 102 mph on I-20 on Saturday.

The state Legislature approved the measure last year as a way to help fund the state's struggling trauma centers.

The fines are expected to bring in about $23 million a year, but the money will be funneled through the state's general fund, meaning lawmakers will decide how it is spent.

The death rate in Georgia from traumatic injuries is far greater than the national rate, according to a 2007 legislative committee study. The state's trauma centers are facing a deficit of more than $170 million caused by uncompensated care they provide each year -- largely to uninsured victims.

The law's opponents have labeled it a back-door tax increase on Georgians.

It was blasted by Emanuel County Sheriff Tyson Stephens as a tax targeting the poorest people in the state and has also been criticized by Libertarian talk-radio host Neil Boortz.

Maj. Weaver said that it's too early to gauge the effect of the law locally but that he expects it to have an impact.

"If it was me, and I knew that driving at those kinds of speeds were going to cost me an additional $200 on top of what the fine is, that would make me slow down," he said.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.