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posted by martyb on Tuesday March 17 2015, @11:09AM   Printer-friendly
from the cheaper-to-pay-someone-else-to-drive dept.

Joe Pinsker writes at The Atlantic that Finnish businessman Reima Kuisla was recently caught going 65 miles per hour in a 50 zone in his home country and ended up paying a fine of $56,000. The fine was so extreme because in Finland, some traffic fines, as well as fines for shoplifting and violating securities-exchange laws, are assessed based on earnings—and Kuisla's declared income was €6.5 million per year. Several years ago another executive was fined the equivalent of $103,000 for going 45 in a 30 zone on his motorcycle.

Finland’s system for calculating fines is relatively simple: It starts with an estimate of the amount of spending money a Finn has for one day, and then divides that by two—the resulting number is considered a reasonable amount of spending money to deprive the offender of. Then, based on the severity of the crime, the system has rules for how many days the offender must go without that money. Going about 15 mph over the speed limit gets you a multiplier of 12 days, and going 25 mph over carries a 22-day multiplier. Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland also have some sliding-scale fines, or “day-fines,” in place.

[More after the break.]

Should such a system be used in the United States? After all, wealthier people have been shown to drive more recklessly than those who make less money. For example Steve Jobs was known to park in handicapped spots and drive around without license plates. But more importantly, day-fines could introduce some fairness to a legal system that many have convincingly shown to be biased against the poor. Last week, the Department of Justice released a comprehensive report on how fines have been doled out in Ferguson, Missouri. "Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs," it concluded.

The first day-fine ever in the U.S. was given in 1988, and about 70 percent of Staten Island’s fines in the following year were day-fines. A similar program was started in Milwaukee, and a few other cities implemented the day-fine idea. Nevertheless, in America, flat-rate fines are the norm and day-fines remain unusual and even exotic.

According to Judith Greene, who founded Justice Strategies, a non-profit research organization, all of these initiatives were effective in making the justice system fairer for poor people. “When considering a proportion of their income, people are at least constantly risk-averse. This means that the worst that would happen is that the deterrent effect of fines would be the same across wealth or income levels,” says Casey Mulligan. "We should start small—say, only speeding tickets—and see what happens."

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Nuke on Tuesday March 17 2015, @01:28PM

    by Nuke (3162) on Tuesday March 17 2015, @01:28PM (#158855)

    Personally, I think the points system used in some European countries is a better solution. ...... Every traffic violation costs you n amount of points .... when your points run out, you lose your license.

    That is more-or-less how it is in the UK, so persistent offenders lose their licence for a period like 3 or 6 months. They are fined as well. They also may be required to attend a safety course, and in some cases re-take the driving test. As the driving test is pretty easy for any experienced driver, a re-take is usually only called for if the culprit is obviously incompetent, or going senile or blind.

    Fines are generally low (typically less than an average day's salary) and people are far more concerned about losing their licence. You will hear people say "I am keeping to the speed limits at the moment because I am nearly out of licence points."

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  • (Score: 2) by tonyPick on Wednesday March 18 2015, @08:29AM

    by tonyPick (1237) on Wednesday March 18 2015, @08:29AM (#159290) Homepage Journal

    Of course, one problem with the UK system is that there's actually a fair amount of discretion left up on the sentencing side, so the revocation of the license isn't as automatic as some people assume: the drivers can claim "exceptional hardship" would result from the loss of a license, and there's no strict definition of what that is (AIUI):

    From []

    Almost 7,300 motorists with 12 points or more on their licences have not been banned from driving, the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has claimed.

    Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) latest figures show a man from Liverpool is driving with 45 penalty points on his licence, the IAM said.