Speeding tickets based on the driver's income?

Europe has all sorts of progressive taxation, so why not have progressive income based penalties for speeding? It doesn't make any more sense than having the price of cars or bread or anything else based on income. Efficiency requires that people buy goods up to the point where the marginal benefit that they receive is equal to the marginal cost. Varying prices with income will move the market away from that optimal output. The traditional argument for penalties for speeding is the same. There is a cost from speeding in terms of increasing the likelihood of accidents, and there is a benefit in terms of saving time by getting to the driver's destination faster. Unless one wants to argue that the expected damage from a wealthy speeder going a certain speed is greater than a poorer one going the same speed, one wouldn't want the penalty for speeding to vary with the wealth of the speeder. The only exceptions would be if wealthier criminals were some how harder to catch to begin with. From Fox News:

European countries are increasingly pegging speeding fines to income as a way to punish wealthy scofflaws who would otherwise ignore tickets.

Advocates say a $290,000 speeding ticket slapped on a millionaire Ferrari driver in Switzerland was a fair and well-deserved example of the trend.

Germany, France, Austria and the Nordic countries also issue punishments based on a person's wealth. In Germany the maximum fine can be as much as $16 million compared to only $1 million in Switzerland. Only Finland regularly hands out similarly hefty fine to speeding drivers, with the current record believed to be a $190,000 ticket in 2004.

The Swiss court appeared to set a world record when it levied the fine in November on a man identified in the Swiss media only as "Roland S." Judges in the eastern canton of St. Gallendescribed him as a "traffic thug" in their verdict, which only recently came to light.

"As far as we're concerned this is very good," Sabine Jurisch, a road safety campaigner with the Swiss group Road Cross.

She said rich drivers were lightly punished until Swiss voters approved a 2007 penal law overhaul that let judges hand down fines based on personal income and wealth for moderate misdemeanors including excessive speeding and drunk driving. Before, they had to assign relatively small fixed penalties or — rarely — a few days in prison.

The fines were traditionally insignificant for rich people, and in the rare cases where prison terms for small-time offenders were handed down, they were usually suspended anyway. And even when they were sent to jail, the deterrent was limited compared with the costs of incarceration borne by the taxpayers, officials said. . . .

Labels: ,


Blogger Raven Lunatic said...

With all due respect, I believe you're looking at the wrong side of the equation. Try looking at the cost benefit not on the society as a whole, but on the drivers in question. When individuals do a cost/benefit analysis, they don't generally pay attention to how many digits the cost has so much as what percentage of their money it costs. The benefit of speeding is getting there faster, the cost is the penalty for getting caught.

If someone working at a $20k job got slapped with a $500 fine, that's about one third of their monthly income, and that is too high a cost for getting to work 5 minutes faster, generally. If someone with a $2m job gets the same penalty? They can cut a check and barely notice.

You say it makes as much sense as if there were a sliding scale for cars, but actually, there are really expensive cars, and (theoretically) really expensive bread.

But really, a better comparison is bail. Bail is designed to be a deterrent, just as speeding tickets are. With my income, a speeding ticket is huge no matter how much it is, so that's an effective deterrent to me. To someone with a multimillion dollar salary, a few hundred bucks is an annoyance, but not likely to change any behaviors.

1/11/2010 3:31 AM  
Blogger juandos said...


Means testing traffic tickets!?!?

Wait till the libtards in this country get ahold of this idea!!

1/11/2010 5:52 AM  
Blogger David L said...

Using this logic, a millionaire would only need to spend a few hours in jail to equal the loss of income of a working class joe who is in jail for a few years.

Additionally, if a speeding ticket is a large per centage of your income, it would behoove you to be more careful for your own pocketbook than someone that could easily afford it in the same manner that a rich person can afford a $300 haircut....

1/11/2010 9:49 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Penalties for being a member of the government should also be raised. If a government employee is proven to use influence to alter the penalty or drop a charge for himself or anyone, loss of office should be the immediate penalty and he should also pay the fine that was avoided.

There should be NO incentive for a government employee to thwart the law. Are you hearing me, Schwarzenegger and Kennedy families?

1/11/2010 1:35 PM  
Blogger Raven Lunatic said...


I disagree. The penalty of a jail sentence is not the loss of income, but the loss of freedom; a millionaire has no more or less freedom in jail than does a busboy. ...plus, because of the privilege associated with being rich (better lawyers, etc) there seems to be an effect where rich people spend less time in jail anyway.

So, you're saying that if it's a bigger percentage of your income, it's more of an impact of your life, and thus more of a punishment? If the penalty is a set value, those who are poorer are effectively penalized harsher, while if the penalty is scaled to your income, the punishing effect is leveled across people; i'd rather have everybody face a 0.025% penalty, across tax brackets than to have a Wallstreet CEO pay a "speed tax" 100 times lower (0.025% of annual income) than the working class driver who scrapes and saves just to pay all his bills on time (2.5%)

1/11/2010 6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to that quaint little American concept that justice was blind? You know, the lady with the scales and the blindfold? Justice is meant to be blind to the race, religion, class and nationality. The rich and the poor were to be treated identically.

1/12/2010 3:23 PM  
Blogger ACbyTesla said...

Mr. Lott, I disagree entirely. There are two reason we fine people for violating the law. One is to deter behavior and the other is to collect revenue. The problem with fixed fines, is that it does not deter bad behavior for those that can easily afford it.

For the guy barely getting by a $300 fine is a punch in the gut that takes weeks to recover from whereas the multimillionaire never even notices.

The fine should make the the person take notice and curb their behavior.

1/12/2014 8:11 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home