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Speeders face tougher penalties

State troopers are noticing a dramatic increase in the number of high-speed drivers, despite recent laws making the offense punishable by stiffer fines and mandatory suspended licenses.

Between January and May 2006, troopers issued 258 such citations, compared to 217 for the same time period last year, according to data complied by Oregon State Police. That's a 19-percent increase, said Lt. Gregg Hastings, Oregon State Police spokesman.

Two local high-speed traffic stops reflect the trend.

Troopers cited Jess Elzy, 19, of Gresham for allegedly driving a 1999 Toyota Corolla 117 mph on westbound Highway 26 approaching Gresham on Sunday, Oct. 15.

They also cited Cintia M. Schutt, 38, of Vancouver for allegedly riding a motorcycle 132 mph on westbound Interstate 84 near Corbett on Tuesday, Oct .17.

Both face fines of $1,103 and 30- to 90-day license suspensions. These penalties took effect on Jan. 1, 2006, thanks to a Senate bill increasing fines and requiring suspensions for motorists convicted of high-speed driving. As a result, the state is on course to suspend about 300 drivers convicted of driving faster than 100 mph, Hastings said.

Hastings, who in his years as a state trooper has seen his share of grisly crashes, said driving faster than 100 mph is like firing a loaded gun into a crowd.

'You may miss people in the first attempt, but eventually someone's going to get hit,' he said.