It's time to rethink fines for moving violations

In my humble opinion, it is time, in fact, it is long since time, for a thorough review of the fines local governments and municipalities assess for driving infractions.

What I am proposing for consideration, is to tailor or factor the fine to the location, damages and resulting police/rescue costs from the infraction, and the number of folks inconvenienced (if any).

Essentially, if you are snagged for running a red light, and you caused an accident, at the busiest intersection in town at the height of rush hour, look out. You have delayed possibly 1000 people for upwards of an hour, you have smashed someone else’s car, and you have tied up police and fire rescue personnel for however long it takes to get things back to normal. The fine for running the light under these circumstances should be pegged to the actual value of the damage that results. 1000 people for an hour, minimum wage (this averages out the fat cats and the unemployeds) all the police and rescue costs, etc., and I could easily see a fine (first offense) in the $10,000 range.

(Now, I also think, that a given persons’ auto insurance policy should cover the fine. But realize, the insurance premiums will need to be adjusted for this.)

Now if you space off a stop sign in a residential neighborhood, no wreck, no pedestrian to remove from your grill, then the fine should reflect the value of the police effort to nab you, probably pretty close to the current ‘running average’ for that offense.
I see the effect of this as ‘moving’ the moving violations from the busiest intersections, to rural, and bucolic suburbs, at least for those folks compulsive about breaking driving laws. Most of the rest of will just drive safer, and enjoy our shortened commuting times.

Essentially, I am using ‘Adam Smith capitalism’ to establish fines at their ‘fair market’ price. Is the payoff fewer wrecks, better drivers, and a nice bump in the local government coffers to fix the damn potholes?

Think of how many variables could go into calculating the fine for any given situation. Now think about it again.
See how insanely complex and unworkable it would be?

I am thinking if the fine is high enough you won’t have to do it very often.

And, major cities have traffic counts at all the intersections with lights, all the residential intersections can be at the minimum rate, all fire/rescue departments track their hours, so too the police. Also, rush hours can be deemed to be 7 to 9 AM and 5 to 7PM (or what ever). For a $10,000 fine, we can spend 10 minutes on the adding machine to get a number.
Also, I would not be adverse to posting signs at the 10 busiest intersections in town warning the sheeple of the unwisdom of infracting in that locale, too. Make the slow learners pay.

I note a locality near here has red light cameras on a few intersections. Those intersections all have big signs, and the equipment is not hidden or camo’d at all, and STILL, they generate income.

I would like it seen the other way, with the first question always to the officer “would this offense possibly something you would do in your personal vehicle and if caught would expect a courtesy given to you”.

What I’d like to see for speeding is no fine at all (except for excessive speed, like over 15 miles per hour over the limit). The police would simply boot your car for 10x minutes, where x is the amount you exceeded the limit.

So, for exceeding the limit by ten miles per hour, you’d be delayed for over an hour and a half. That would make people think twice about speeding.

Not unless you have some magic way of applying the penalty more than it is now. People already calculate the risk/benefit based on the assumption that that there will most likely be no consequence.

Since we’re talking about completely impractical fantasy punishments, I think they should start building a database of gruesome videos of accident scenes, and offenders should be given LSD and sat down to watch five or six hours of the consequence of actions specifically like theirs. “This is why it’s illegal to drive while you’re yacking on your phone…” Parallel with higher fines, of course.

I’m thinking they should be re-tooled in a different direction - personal identification numbers broadcasting from every vehicle all the time, and sensors registering all the laws you break as you drive so the tickets can show up in your mailbox. I think if people knew - KNEW - they were going to get ticketed at least once every time they drove somewhere, we’d see some different driving.

The problem there is that there are far too many laws to run afoul of and it’s the very rare person who can memorize the entire vehicle code.

The other problem is that some laws are too precise. Do you know when you’ve traveled 100 ft before making a lane change after signaling?

Is your speedo accurate to 1/100th of a MPH to avoid speeding?

A few citations in your mailbox later, you’ll know the laws pretty damned well. :slight_smile: But more seriously, I was thinking of the driving rules that people break as a matter of course - speeding, running red lights, turning right on red without stopping first, not stopping at stop signs, etc.

Mine is still in the drawer, upon popular request.

The most interesting suggestion I’ve heard is to make them a percentage of your yearly income. Ie, it affects everyone equally, as currently if the fine is $100, thats 4 hours work for one guy and 30 min work for another.

Interesting as in one of the stupidest suggestions. Have any studies been done that suggest that people with higher incomes are more likely to commit moving traffic violations because the fines are a lower % of their gross income? I tend to doubt that as even plausible. Penalties for rule breaking should not be based upon a persons income.

One thing I’ve wondered about when people claim that $x were spent on a rescue or responding to some emergency. I would think the police and firemen are being paid regardless of whether they are responding to an emergency or not. So why are their costs included in the cost of responding? Are extra people brought in to help?

If this is a case of amortizing the cost of purchase and maintenance of emergency equipment over the number of incidents, then again I can see a huge problem. If there were just 1 accident a year, then the cost/accident would be astronomical. Much of the cost is fixed, whether there are any accidents or not. The equipment is available as an insurance that we all pay and shouldn’t be thought of as a cost for just that one instance.

Municipalities routinely bill for ambulance services and for damage (e.g. cost to repair telephone poles, guard rails) already.

Here’s my problem with that (ignoring all the logistics of calculating the actual number). So I cause an accident, I back up all these drivers and delay them getting to work, they’re paychecks get shorted. It’s my fault, I admit that. Why do I pay restitution to the city? Why should the city make money because I made people late to work?

Similarly, I run a business (IRL). A couple times a year we have people arrested for shoplifting, burglary, vandalism etc… They might rack up a couple hundred to a couple grand in fines which get paid to the city and I might never see a dime. Sometimes I get restitution, but not usually. It doesn’t make sense to me that if you steal from me, the city makes money from it. (Don’t get me wrong, if it just covers their costs, I understand).

That’s actually the way it works in some Scandinavian countries, by my understanding. There was an article some years ago about a billionaire being hit by a speeding fine of many tens of thousands of dollars.

The idea is to make everyone “feel” the same pain regardless of income. Not because the wealthy are more likely to commit violations.

I doubt it would be acceptable in the U.S.

Well in that case it’s not really a fine, it’s a tax. Call it what it is.

I move that we call them “collisions,” not “accidents.” The word “accidents” implies that they were unavoidable (“Oops! I just rear-ended someone! No way I could have prevented that”), whereas almost all car collisions are preventable.

I understand that anecdotes are not data but I do speed. I always stay under 20km/h over as that’s when the fines get too steep to be worth the time I am saving.