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Perdue: Stiffer fines for speedy drivers

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ATLANTA — Speeders beware.
    In a move aimed at getting Georgians to slow down when they get behind the wheel, Gov. Sonny Perdue wants to boost fines for those with the heaviest lead feet.
    Perdue said Tuesday that Georgia’s drivers are among the fastest in the nation and the speed has led to more fatal accidents, spiraling trauma care costs and chronic traffic congestion.
    ‘‘We’ve got to stop the excessive speeding,’’ Perdue told business leaders gathered for an annual legislative breakfast hosted by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.
    Perdue will push for legislation this session to increase fines for repeat offenders and so-called super speeders — those driving over 85 mph on any Georgia road and over 75 mph on two-lane roads, his spokesman Bert Brantley said.
    Brantley said the exact fines were still being worked out. But he said they would be ‘‘substantial.’’
    ‘‘Probably hundreds of dollars,’’ he said.
    Brantley said the money collected through the fines would be targeted at helping offset costs at the state’s trauma care centers.
    Local courts set speeding fines, which vary throughout the state, Georgia State Patrol spokesman Larry Schnall said. He said law enforcement backs Perdue’s proposal.
    ‘‘We support anything to get people’s attention and slow them down,’’ Schnall said. ‘‘Speeding is one of the most common factors involved in a fatal accident.’’
    Perdue said Tuesday that about 20 percent of the state’s 1,744 fatal car wrecks in 2005 were the result of excessive speed. The average Peach State motorist travels at 75 mph, which is 20 mph over the speed limit, Perdue said.
    Beyond the human cost of car crashes there is a financial toll as well. The state spends $7.8 billion a year on trauma care. And wrecks often lead to traffic snarls that can turn the daily commute into a nightmare.
    Brantley said Perdue will make the speeding bill part of his legislative package for 2007.
    Perdue is set to unveil his state budget proposal on Wednesday when he also offers his State of the State address.
    He gave only a small glimpse Tuesday of what will be in that spending plan.
    Perdue said he will seek $5.1 million in economic development money for a ‘‘Global Georgia’’ initiative designed to expand the state’s trade ties. The state plans to open three new international trade offices in China, India and France, Perdue said.
    The state’s China trade office is set to open next month. Money to establish that office was initially added to the budget by the state Senate last year.
    Georgia already has nine trade offices in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, the United Kingdom, Israel, Korea, Japan, and Germany.
    Perdue also said Tuesday that he wants the state to spend $2.3 billion on transportation projects, which doubles the spending from his first budget as governor. The additional funding still does not meet the state’s expanding needs.
    Perdue painted a rosy economic picture for the business leaders in his remarks on Tuesday.
    ‘‘Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to report that Georgia is thriving,’’ the governor said.
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