Here's a post-Christmas gift for drivers out there: Starting Jan. 1, 2012, fines for traffic violations will be going down.

Here's a post-Christmas gift for drivers out there: Starting Jan. 1, 2012, fines for traffic violations will be going down.

Some speeding violations, for example, will drop from $190 to $160 and driving while suspended will drop from $472 to $435.

The state will be using a different method for taking its percentage of those citations, but those are internal accounting issues. For the driving public, the changes simply mean that getting caught will now cost you a little less than before.

There are a couple of other things to remember about the upcoming new year. All Class A and B violations will automatically double if they occur within special zones such as school zones, safety corridors or highway work zones. Class C and Class D speed violations will also double if they occur within special zones.

Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana will be cited at $650, as will refusing to take a breath test when arrested on a charge of driving while under the influence of intoxicants.

Finally, remember that the cell phone law also changes — there will no longer be an employment exemption that allowed you to use your phone while driving if it's necessary for your job.

The following exemptions remain, however:

Persons calling emergency help if no one else in the vehicle is capable of calling. Operators of ambulances or emergency vehicles. Public safety officers acting in the scope of their employment. Operators of tow trucks acting in the scope of their employment. Operators of utility company vehicles acting in the scope of their employment.

If you're cited under the modified cell phone law it's still a Class D violation and will now cost you the new amount of $110.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a regular Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or email cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.