Driving 20 kilometres or more above the speed limit carries a $455 fine in NSW. For a person earning a six-figure income, this may not seem like a huge amount of money. But for a pensioner, student or low-income earner, this could be a week’s wages.
The flat fine structure we currently have in Australia gives the lowest income motorists a more burdensome financial penalty than wealthy drivers. This means that two motorists effectively receive two different punishments for the same crime.
British authorities have just announced a new speeding penalty based on the offender’s income. A similar model has already been used in Finland and other Nordic countries.
Motorists caught exceeding the speed limit in a 30mph (48km/h) zone will be fined 25 to 75 per cent of their weekly wage. Motorists caught doing more than 31mph (50km/h) over the speed limit could be fined a whopping 125 to 175 per cent of their weekly income.
There are calls for a similar system to be adopted here in Australia.
Research group The Australia Institute (TAI) has published a report outlining how traffic fines hit low-income earners particularly hard. The report referred to the 2014 case of a Western Australian woman who died in custody after being unable to pay $1000 in fines.
If Australia follows the Finnish model, the fine will take into account the monthly income of drivers and the number of dependents that the offender provides for. From there, the offender’s net monthly income will be calculated after taxes.
This means that low income earners that are caught going less than 10km/h over the speed limit would be fined around $33, while higher-income earners would pay close to $300.
In NSW, the same offence would attract a $114 fine for all drivers, regardless of income.
The study notes, however, that the proposed changes may result in less revenue being raised. This would be a major deterrent for the Australian government. (caradvice.com.au)
What do you think of the proposed changes? Do you think it is fair to give fines proportionate to income or should all drivers be treated the same?
Image: Sunshine Coast Daily