ANNAPOLIS — The volume of cases clogging traffic court dockets would be reduced and Maryland motorists would be rewarded for clean driving records under a bill prefiled by Delegate Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll.
The bill is designed to keep consistently good drivers who are cited occasionally for traffic violations out of court and to keep their insurance premiums from skyrocketing, said Dixon.
Under the proposed transportation law amendment, motorists would be awarded one "safe-driving point" by the state Motor Vehicle Administration for each calendar year in which their driving records remainfree of points assessed for traffic violations. The safe-driving points would offset an equivalent number of penalty points assessed for violations, such as speeding or contributing to an accident.
Dixon said the legislation would aid judicial officials and police officers, reducing the amount of time they spend in court processing cases brought by motorists attempting to keep penalty points off their drivers licenses. The bill could save taxpayers money in court costs and allow police to attend to more pressing duties, he said.
Dixon's safe-driving bill is one of two pieces of legislation he pre-filed for the 1991 session. Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore,also prefiled two bills.
Filing a bill before the session starts increases the chances of it receiving an early hearing date, said Dixon, who predicts a "logjam" of legislation later in the session once the 45 first-year lawmakers begin introducing bills.
Motorists are assessed points for traffic tickets ranging from one to 12, depending on the seriousness of the violation. For example, drivers cited forexceeding the speed limit by between 10 mph and 30 mph are assessed two points, unless the citation is appealed and penalties dismissed in court. Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs carries an eight-point penalty.
If a driver accumulates eight points within any two-year period, his license is suspended. Licenses are revoked once 12 points are accumulated.
The proposed legislation allowsa maximum of five safe-driving points.
Dixon modeled the bill after a similar law in Virginia, which "seems to be working," he said. Aconstituent who works within the judicial system advised him to introduce the legislation, he added.
The bill could face opposition from trial lawyers and insurance companies, groups that could lose money if it passes. Insurance companies raise rates for drivers considered risky to insure.
Other prefiled bills include legislation that would:
* Require the Maryland Department of the Environment to develop a water-quality standard for dioxin concentration "sufficient forthe protection of human health and aquatic life." LaMotte, the bill's sponsor, said he was disturbed by newspaper reports last fall saying that dioxin, a carcinogen, had been detected in the waste water of a paper mill near the Potomac River in Western Maryland.
MDE's standard for regulating the source of release of dioxin is significantlyless stringent than the federal Environmental Protection Agency's standard, said LaMotte. The bill stipulates that MDE's standard can't be less stringent than the EPA's.
* Prohibit individuals from filing to run for both a public office and a party office in the same primary election. Dixon, the bill's sponsor, said the legislation would close the only loophole in the state's election laws allowing an individual to run for two offices -- one being a Republican or Democratic Central committee position -- at once.
In last November's election, two candidates -- John Buchheister Jr. and Joseph H. Mettle -- ran for Carroll Republican Central Committee and other state offices. Central committees recruit and promote candidates for public office.
* Reform property tax law to ensure that appraisals of an individual home are not influenced by improvements made to other houses in the same neighborhood. LaMotte, the bill's sponsor, said the value of homes should increase based on original purchase prices, not on increasesin values of surrounding homes.