If you read our weekly district Court Report, then you've probably recently noticed many traffic violations with little or no punishment. One reader emailed us and said, "Why do police write the tickets if they're all going to be dismissed in court?" Well, that's a good question, but it's actually not what's happening.
County Attorney J.B. Hines has implemented a county traffic school program that is available to first-time or infrequent traffic offenders. "We don't want to just beat folks over the head with punishment," Hines said. "We simply want you to comply with the law." Hines said that similar local programs are effective and he believes it will also be successful in Edmonson County.
The program consists of an online, two-hour course that the offender must take. After completed, the offender receives a certificate that must be presented to Hines' office within 60 days. The offender also pays anywhere from a $35-$45 program fee, depending on the points system violation, and an additional $25 administrative fee to the Circuit Court Clerk's office. These costs are greatly reduced in comparison to fees paid from a violator not participating in the program. The case is then either dismissed or in the event of a higher points violation, diverted for 6 months.
Hines pointed out that not all traffic citations qualify for the program. Violations such as DUI, failure to provide insurance, no seat belt, suspended license driving, CDL violations and a few more are not eligible, neither are drivers that have participated in the program over the last 12 months.
The fees stay in the county with a percentage paid to the Sheriff's office as well as the County Attorney and Circuit Court.
Hart County Attorney Mike Nichols said that his office has used the same program for several years. "Drivers learn through education, they're spending less money on fees, they're not racking up points on their licenses, and lives are being saved in Hart County," he said. "I've never had a situation where I wished that we'd never used the program."
Nichols noted that although no program is perfect, the results of county programs implemented statewide have been overwhelmingly positive. He estimated that a large majority of Kentucky's 120 counties participate in some type of traffic school program.
So even though it may appear that traffic offenders are easily being let off the hook, that's not necessarily the case. Past results in other KY counties show that programs like this one work, and Hines looks for the same positive results here in Edmonson County.