Progressive speeding fines?

by on February 16, 2004 at 6:04 am in Economics | Permalink

One of Finland’s richest men has been fined a record 170,000 Euros ($217,000) for speeding through the center of the capital, police said.

Jussi Salonoja, 27, heir to his family’s sausage business, was caught driving 50 mph in a 25 mph zone last week.

Finnish traffic fines are pegged to the offender’s income. According to tax data, Salonoja’s 2002 earnings were close to 7 million Euros.

Imagine that kind of system here. It could be scaled way down, say $3,000 for a rich person, $300 for a middle-income person and $30 for a poor person for each violation involving speeding, running a red light, blocking an intersection, ignoring a crosswalk or parking illegally in a curb lane during rush hour. Think that might bring any more compliance and downtown gridlock relief?

As reported by Dr. Gridlock, who writes for The Washington Post on traffic problems.

Legality and constitutionality surely do not favor this idea in the U.S., but how about efficiency? I say no. Richer individuals on average have higher valuations of time. If a billionaire wants to park illegally, there is some chance he is in the process of cutting a big deal. Don’t levy a special fine on him. “Rich people speeding” is not a crisis in need of a particular solution, general reductions in the speeding rate will do, which suggests upping a general fine for speeding. Equal dollar fines are consistent with the rule of law, and progressive fines would give the cops a special incentive to go after Bill Gates. Gates in turn would have special incentive to hire a chauffeur. True, efficiency is unlikely to suggest strictly equal dollar fines, but if the choice is equal dollar fines or discretion I will prefer the former.

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