In greater Williamsburg, slow down or pay up

A speeding ticket takes minutes to issue, but Virginia drivers could pay for the citation for years.

Beyond the fine and court costs, speeding violations have long-term financial consequences, specifically in the form of insurance increases that can remain in effect for up to three years. Once the costs are calculated, Virginia drivers pay more than twice the cost of the ticket itself at an average of $335.84, That's according to a study released last month by financial analysis website NerdWallet.

Greater Williamsburg drivers will pay slightly less at $318, the study notes, ranking the area 28th among 37 Virginia localities ranked. Richmond ranked highest with a cost of $386.55, followed by Norfolk at $372.51. Christiansburg was the cheapest locality in the state in which to receive a speeding ticket with a citation costing $297.99.

"We looked at base rates for car insurance for drivers with a clean record," said John Kuo, an insurance analyst with NerdWallet, in a phone interview discussing the study methodology. "(We) then looked at rates if you tacked on a 15-mile per hour speeding ticket plus a fine and any court costs."

The assumption is that it's the driver's first ticket, Kuo said.

Between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, police officers in Williamsburg and James City issued a combined 2,884 tickets for speeding or reckless driving. Maj. Greg Riley with Williamsburg police said the majority of the 608 citations in the city occurred on Richmond or Capitol Landing roads.

Speed transitions that go unnoticed by many drivers are what Riley believes results in the high incidence of traffic stops. He explained that entering the city on Richmond Road, the speed limit drops from 45 mph to 25 mph in a short distance. On Capitol Landing Road, he said the situation is similar for drivers heading toward the city after exiting Interstate 64.

Deputy Chief Stephen Rubino of James City County police said most of the speeding tickets in the county are issued on major thoroughfares such as Richmond Road, John Tyler Highway and Route 199. All those roads have higher speed limits, and on Route 199 drivers seldom have to stop, which Rubino said can create a false sense of security.

Every mile over the speed limit costs a driver $6 dollars based on a state statute, according to a Williamburg-James City General District Court clerk. Court costs start at $61, and rise depending on the offense.

NerdWallet's study calculates that a driver caught going 15 miles per hour over the posted speed limit would face fines and court costs totaling $141.

Drivers can handle a ticket one of three ways.

• Pre-pay the speeding ticket online.

• Go to court and ask to take a driver improvement course in hopes of avoiding a conviction.

• Plead not guilty and go to trial.

District Judge Colleen Killilea said in 2013 traffic infractions accounted for approximately 50 percent of the new cases in Williamsburg-James City. She said it's up to the driver whether he or she comes to court.

However, if the ticket is not paid in advance of the court date the driver can be tried in their absence if the offense does not carry jail time. If that occurs, a tried in absence fee of $35 is tacked onto the drivers costs, according to a court clerk.

Killilea said a person's driving record can be a significant factor in how a judge handles a speeding case.

"Some judges, although not all," she said, "will continue a case for traffic school and an ultimate dismissal, upon certain other terms and conditions being met, including being of good behavior and the payment of court costs."

Kuo said the cheapest route for most drivers is probably going to court and attending a driver improvement course because there is a chance of avoiding a conviction, which would appear on a drivers record.

An insurance premium increase of about 7 percent usually follows a speeding conviction, the study indicates.