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Traffic Fines Proportional to Income

Updated on August 4, 2012

Spare change for the Rich

Many people are familiar with the traditional way in which traffic fines work in the United States. Afterall, who hasn't gotten a speeding ticket or a parking ticket for an expired parking meter.

Most likely, the amount of the fine is based on the severity of the violation. For example, the greater the speed excess, the greater the amount.

But is that a good deterrent for a the extremely wealthy? A $100 speeding ticket doesn't mean anything to a millionaire. It is spare change to them. If they wanted to, they can drive as fast as they want. They don't care if they get a ticket. They will just pay it without problem.

They can park illegally or double-park anywhere they want to. They just send in the check and considered it the fee to park illegally. Have you ever seen a person in an expensive car causally drive up and park illegally fully knowing that they are making an obvious parking violation? I sure have. Many have too. It is not that uncommon.

Price High for the Poor

On the other hand, a $100 ticket would be a great financial hardship to the less then wealthy. They would have to go out of their way to come out and feed the meter to avoid a ticket. They would have to spend extra time driving around longer to find legal parking spaces.

And when they get caught in a random speed trap (and who has not?), the price of the speeding ticket would probably mean no dinner tonight.

Money going to pay for the ticket means less for groceries. This is not an exaggeration. Making a right-turn on red without a full stop and getting caught on an automatic traffic camera could be a fine as high as $400.

In addition, one may have to go to traffic school in order to not let this get on their records and have their car insurance go up. That possibly can mean missed time at work and therefore even less income.

Unlike the rich where they are paid a fixed salary regardless of the hours worked, the less wealthy are paid on an hourly wage. No work for an hour mean less money to buy grocery. Sure there are "traffic school" on weekends. But many low-wage earners are working two jobs covering both weekdays and weekends.

Need a Better System

Both the rich and the poor gets the same ticket from a speed trap. Although the price of the ticket is the same, the penalty to the poor seems more severe.

Does that seem like a fair system?

Some other countries do not think so. And they have come up with a different system, a system that some say is better.

In many European countries, the price of the speeding ticket is based on the income. The greater your wealth, the greater the amount that you have to pay. The penalty fits the crime and the person's wealth.

Germany, France, Austria and the Nordic countries are a few countries whose traffic tickets are based on the violator's wealth.

An official at the Swiss Justice Ministry said ...

"It wasn't about making the punishment harsher or lighter, but more sensible" [reference]

Although Germany caps the maximum ticket amount at $16 million. Switzerland caps it at $1 million.

Speeding Ticket Based on Income

Some example of extreme cases are ...

  • In Switerland, a 53-year-old man get a nearly $290,000 fine for driving 85 mph in a 50 mph zone. His annual income was more than $820,000 and was driving a red Ferrari Testarossa at the time. The fact that he was a "traffic menace" with previous violation was taken into account.
  • In Finland, a 27-year-old get a £116,000 ticket for driving 80km/h in a 40km/h zone. His annual income for 2002 was £7m.
  • In Finland in year 2000, internet millionaire Jaakko Rytsola gets a ticket for £54,000 for a speeding violation.
  • In 2002, Nokia executive Anssi Vanjoki was fined 116,000 euros. But it was reduced by 95% due because his income dropped due to the downturn in the company's profits.


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    • ib radmasters profile image

      ib radmasters 5 years ago from Southern California

      Don't you think that different traffic fines for different people is unconstitutional as unequal protection, as well as discriminatory?

      The point system in most states is where rich and poor treated the same by taking away their driver's license when they collect too many traffic offense points.

      Ticketing is a revenue issue not a safety issue.

      I wrote 4 hubs on the California Highway Patrol on the safety issues versus revenue.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      Thanks all for reading.

    • jessefutch profile image

      jessefutch 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Oh great... Socialized penal codes... When will the insanity end? Oh yeah, when Obama gets his way and we turn into Greece. The ridiculous things the government is thinking up lately is getting rather rampant. Good God I hope Romney wins and reminds Washington that this is America, a Democracy.

    • Angela Kane profile image

      Angela Kane 5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      This sounds very good to me. If someone is making less than $20,000 a year and they get a $500 ticket, this can pose a huge issue for them and their income so I think it is only fair that they create tickets proportional to income. The people who seem to be hurt the most are the lower and middle classes.

    • NMLady profile image

      NMLady 5 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Makes total sense. Pay commensurate to your income.

      Had a boss that got a ticket. He was rich and here is what he could afford to do: He had a lawyer on retainer for his biz. This lawyer requested a court date. The lawyer looked up what days off the police officer had and made the requested date for that date. When to police officer showed up the lawyer asked for a continuance and got it. The lawyer did this over and over and over until one day the police officer did not use his day off to show up in court. Then the lawyer said the day was good for him but since the police officer did not show up.....well, the ticket was thrown out.

      You and me.....we pay and pay and pay...... the big boss gets away with it!!

    • profile image

      mhf 5 years ago

      in my humble opinion, upstanding law abiding citizens not paying fines proportional to their own income is criminal. I find their lack of financial accountability morally repugnant. Why are these people not fighting to bare their share of the burden?

    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 5 years ago

      Sometimes it is good to look to Europe for good policy ideas.

    • dreamdamodar profile image

      Raman Kuppuswamy 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      A good idea to fill the coffers of the government.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Wow!! Here are my own thoughts, clearly stated black on white. Awesome! Thank You so much for bringing light to the unfairness of the Justice System when it comes to fines.

      It is so rotten, it makes me cringe ... lol

      Cheers for a great article! I am sharing this.