Alabama Becomes Latest State to Push Traffic Fine Increases for Spinal Cord Injury Research

The Alabama news outlet, Alabama Live LLC, announced last week that a bill to increase fines for speeding and other moving violations has passed the State Senate, while a House version has also been sponsored.  The news source explains that these fine increases would go to fund spinal cord injury research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). 

If this bill passes into law, the fine increases would “charge an extra $1 for basic moving violations, $5 for aggravated violations such as reckless driving or following too closely and $10 for DUIs.”  According to the news source, this bill is expected to raise as much as $500,000 a year for spinal cord injury research.    

The bill itself is named for T.J. Atchison, a University of South Alabama student who was paralyzed in a 2010 car accident.  The Alabama news source explains that it was developed with the help of Roman Reed, the president of the Roman Reed Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to the cure of neurological disorders. 

According to the news source, Reed “persuaded California lawmakers to set aside millions for spinal cord injury.”  That California bill, passed in 1999, has reportedly raised more than $125 million for research.   

However, the T.J. Atchison Spinal Cord Injury Act is not the first legislation of its kind to set up surcharges on some traffic violations for research into finding a cure for spinal cord injury.  Rutgers’ W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience reports that in the fall of 1998, New York State passed the Paul Richter Bill, which designates up to $8.5 million for such research. 

That bill is named for State Trooper Paul Richter, who has residual partial paralysis after being shot three times during a routine traffic stop.  The success of that legislation has since spurred the passage of similar bills across the United States.  

Alabama’s proposed traffic fine increase is appropriate because traffic accidents are the leading cause of spinal cord injury.  According to the Mayo Clinic, auto and motorcycle accidents account for over 40 percent of each year’s new spinal cord injuries.   

UAB researcher Candace Lloyd will be in charge of administering these additional funds if this legislation does make it into law. With the additional funding, research will be carried out to both find a cure and alleviate the side effects felt by paralysis patients.