OKLAHOMA CITY - Motorists issued speeding tickets will face less expensive fines in most cases in the coming months.
Senate Bill 1203, signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin, will take effect in early August. Authored by Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, it reduces the cost of a basic speeding ticket from roughly $225 to $100.
This would apply to motorists who exceed 1 to 10 miles over the speeding limit.
"The goals of SB 1203 are to reduce the impact to Oklahoma motorists for such a minor infraction and improve public safety," Sykes said a statement. "The high cost had a disproportionate impact on Oklahoma motorists and, over the years, fewer tickets were being issued. Limiting the fine and costs to $100 is more equitable to the offense of 1-10 miles per hour over the limit. Nothing in SB 1203 limits or affects the discretion state troopers are able to exercise when making the determination as to whether a citation is warranted.”
The measure has a two-year sunset built into the bill, meaning it expires in November 2020.
In a statement, Fallin said it would "provide a good trial period to see if these changes will result in more tickets, which should discourage motorists from speeding as well as generate revenue for the courts."
Captain Paul Timmons with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said the number of tickets issued last year was about 18 percent below past years, but he said that had more to do with staffing than ticket costs.
According to Timmons, they are currently operating with 780 people on their staff. They are allotted for around 950.
"When you don’t have people out there enforcing the laws, there are probably going to be less citations written," he said. "Also, you have to take into consideration the miles restrictions in place for six months so troopers were only able to drive a hundred miles per shift."
Timmons also added there's no way to tell whether this law will increase the number of tickets issued. Under the measures, troopers will still have discretion on whether they will issue a citation or a warning.
"Our troopers aren’t required to write a certain number of tickets per shift. We don’t have quotas for our agency," he said. "There have been incidences where I stopped younger drivers, even older drivers before and kind of talked to them about whatever action, violation they committed for me to make that traffic stop. Sometimes, if you talk to them and explain to them what they did or the way they’re driving, that has an impact."
The final version of the bill passed the Oklahoma Senate by a vote of 40 to 3. One of the lawmakers who voted against it was Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada.
McCortney told News 4 he agreed the costs of speeding tickets were too high, however he said he was hesitant to support the bill because of the unknown effects it will cause agencies like CLEET, which heavily rely on associated fees and court costs.
Sen. Darcy Yech, R-Kingfisher also voted against the bill.
"I don't think it was a terrible measure at all," Yech told News 4 on the phone, but he did say he raised questions and concerns regarding insurance while the bill was being heard in committee and on the floor.
Lesie Gamble, a spokesperson for AAA Oklahoma, said they have not taken a stance on the lowered costs, however she said revenue should not be a primary concern.
"It is about saving lives, and that’s why the number of tickets, the visibility of our law enforcement as they’re on our roads and the trust that we have in them to protect from others who are speeding recklessly is something that is the upmost importance to us and can save our lives," Gamble said.
The law goes into effect in August, 90 days after the Senate adjourned on May 3.