Drivers in Anchorage caught texting while driving will no longer face jail time. On Tuesday night, the Anchorage Assembly passed an ordinance making the punishment a $500 fine.

The offense was previously classified as a misdemeanor, carrying up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine. City officials said the charge was often dropped in plea deals in order to prosecute other, more serious charges, or the prison sentence for the offense was suspended.

The new fine takes effect Jan. 1.

The Assembly also voted to increase 260 traffic fines. The ordinance does away with the old sliding-scale method, and establishes flat fines for different offenses.

Running a red light could now cost you $75, and passing vehicles in a no passing zone could mean a $150 fine. Careless driving now carries a fine of $500.

Speeding fines have doubled in some cases:

  • 3 to 9 mph over the speed limit – $90

  • 10 to 19 mph over the speed limit – $180

  • 20 to 29 mph over the speed limit – $360

  • 30 to 33 mph over the speed limit – $990

The fees are expected to generate about $1.2 million annually. The last time the city increased fees was back in 2001.

Other changes made by the Assembly include the use of an electronic device to show proof of insurance through an app or via the Internet. Drivers who are cited for failing to provide proof of insurance can avoid a conviction if they show they were covered when they were cited before the deadline listed on their citation.

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