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Bad drivers should pay to fix roads, bridges in Pennsylvania

| Saturday, April 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

State lawmakers typically have paid about as much attention to transportation infrastructure as a Kardashian typically pays to the works of Chaucer.

So it's surprising to see them introduce a $2.5 billion transportation funding bill to repair the state's rundown roads and dilapidated bridges, as well as prop up financially failing public transit systems. Unfortunately, the measure relies far too heavily on a select few sources to raise money.

The legislation, introduced Tuesday by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John Rafferty, could boost the state gas tax from its current 32 cents per gallon to 58 cents per gallon. It also would hike driver's license and vehicle registration fees and add a surcharge to moving violations.

The bill's most onerous aspect is the significant spike in the gas tax, which would hurt many struggling Pennsylvanians. I believe that increase can be substantially reduced, if not eliminated entirely, by penalizing some of the more egregious behaviors drivers display on state roads.

Which behaviors, you ask? Some possibilities follow.

• Caught with an “I Brake for Unicorns” bumper sticker: $100 fine

If you're braking for unicorns, the last thing you should do is brag about it on a bumper sticker. Why would you want to telegraph the fact that you're willing to slow traffic to protect nonexistent, horse-like creatures with spiraling horns projecting from their foreheads?

Tickets for possessing one of those unamusing bumper stickers wouldn't just fill state coffers. They also would serve as costly reminders that drivers should be concentrating on the 18-wheeler beside them rather than ridiculous elements of European folklore.

• Caught failing to use turn signals: $250 fine

Remember that lever on the left side of the steering column that you are legally required to move up or down to indicate when you are about to make a turn or change lanes? Apparently not, because you failed to use it the other morning when you abruptly swerved in front of me on the Parkway East, you reckless (expletive).

Think of the many bridges that can be renovated just from the involuntary contributions of drivers too busy barking into their phones to a radio sports talk show host to signal. Who could object to this penalty? Those you share the road with should not be forced to rely upon their unquestionable telepathic skills to ascertain your lane-changing intentions.

• Caught driving a Prius: $500 fine

Drivers of this hybrid car realize that coasting and braking helps the Prius maintain its battery charge while taking the gasoline engine out of the acceleration equation. That's why, much to the extreme annoyance of all other drivers on the road, they universally insist on slowly coasting to traffic signals and stop signs from as far a distance as possible.

Prius owners undoubtedly would protest that merely driving the world's most irritating vehicle should not be grounds for such an extreme fine. But they shouldn't have trouble paying the ticket.

Think of all the money they've been saving on gas.

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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