There are not many things that have escaped the clutches of inflation over the last 20 years but one thing that has is traffic fines.

There was a good article by the Herald’s Chris Keall a few days ago about getting ticketed for using a phone while driving. One part particularly stood out to me

Part of the problem is that once my embarrassment had subsided, I realised $80 and 20 demerit points (it takes 100 within two years to lose your licence for three months) was not really much of a deterrent. There’s been no change to either penalty since 2009 – meaning inflation has made the amount even more trivial.

With Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter saying:

“The Ministry of Transport is reviewing the appropriateness of transport-related infringement fees and fines as part of a broader Fees and Penalties review.

“I expect officials to provide me with further advice on this matter in the first half of 2020.”

2009 was when the ban on using phones while driving was introduced but the level of fines for other driving offences such as speeding were weren’t changed then. It got me wondering

  • when they last changed
  • just how much impact has inflation had
  • what are the penalties like in other countries
  • how many speeding tickets are issued

So let’s look at these.

When were fines last changed?

The value of traffic infringements are set by government regulation so I started out by looking through that. Looking specifically for speeding fines, the earliest specific record I could find was from 1971, presumably there was something before then. Interestingly there were different levels of fines depending on what the speed limit was. The level of fine was also specific for each mile over the speed limit the person was travelling – I didn’t look at what the penalty was for exceeding the upper limits.

The over 55mph fines were updated in 1974 but the under 55mph speed limit fines were unchanged and remained in miles per hour.

The next change came in 1980 when fines were also updated to km/h and the speed limit differentiation was removed.

The final update I can find, and the values that still exist today came into effect in 1999.

Being 20 years since they were last changed, now seems a good time to be doing that.


What has the impact of inflation been

Using the RBNZ’s inflation calculator we can get an approximation of what fines would be today adjusted for inflation. Travelling 15km/h over the speed limit in 1971 (~9mph) would cost $341 or $213 today.

The $20 from 1980 version is a bit cheaper and would equate to $93 today.

As for the most recent changes, twenty years is a long time to go without making changes and the calculator says the price would have increased by 53% had it kept up with inflation. That would give us the following results.

Any speeding offence, where the speed exceeds the speed limit byCurrentlyInflation adjusted
not more than 10 km an hour$30$46
more than 10 km an hour but not more than 15 km an hour$80$122
more than 15 km an hour but not more than 20 km an hour$120$184
more than 20 km an hour but not more than 25 km an hour$170$260
more than 25 km an hour but not more than 30 km an hour$230$352
more than 30 km an hour but not more than 35 km an hour$300$459
more than 35 km an hour but not more than 40 km an hour$400$612
more than 40 km an hour but not more than 45 km an hour$510$781
more than 45 km an hour but not more than 50 km an hour$630$965

Those are some substantial changes and I wonder how much more of a deterrent they would be.

On top of speeding fines another I thought I’d compare is that for people running red lights. Currently at $150, it would have increased to about $230 today.


What are the penalties like in other countries

Even if the fines had been adjusted for inflation, they are now quite small when compared to many places overseas. While googling I came across this site comparing the level of fines for speeding, mobile phone use and red light running. In all cases, NZ is nearer the bottom of th list.

Let’s look at a few of them.

Australia

In Australia the fines and ranges vary depending on what state you’re in. These are shown below and have been converted to $NZD

Fines for red light running are

  • NSW – $471
  • Vic – $425
  • QLD – $412
  • SA – $502
  • WA – $309

UK

The UK system is quite different where you are fined a percentage of your weekly wage depending on how much over the speed limit you were travelling. The limits are shown below followed by the banding.

Within the system there are minimums of £100 ($197) and a maximum of £1,000 ($1,973)

As for running a red light, that’s a whopping £1,000 ($1,973)

Norway

Norway’s fines also vary depending on the speed limit of the road you’re travelling on with fines varying from about $135 to over $1,800 for travelling 36-40km/h on a road with a speed limit of 90km/h or higher.

Running a red light will cost you $1,155


How many speeding tickets are issued

The police publish data on how many tickets are issue on a monthly basis (currently up till September). In the 12 months to then, 1.14 million speeding tickets were issued, most from recently added static cameras.

They also break down the speeding tickets issued by the speed they were for (buy only do so for January and December). Looking back over the last few years, this is the breakdown of tickets issued.

And red light camera tickets issued. You can really see the impact of the recent roll-out of red light cameras in Auckland.


Overall, 20 years is a long time to leave traffic fines as they are and so it’s definitely time to update them.

Of course I’m sure that any attempt to do so will be labelled as anti-car and revenue gathering by certain parties. Perhaps we could do something like this idea of ring-fencing some of the money from the increased fines to pay back good drivers through a lottery.

Finally, it’s also worth noting that it’s silly that the fine for not having a train ticket is the same as performing an act that could kill someone

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73 comments

  1. Totally agree that the cost of the penalties needs to be updated. They have become much less of a deterrent than they used to be.

    I’d also like to see demerit points imposed for camera speeding tickets and citizen camera evidence able to be used to impose penalties.

    Proceeds from fines (less an admin allowance to the collecting body – police mostly) to go towards road safety improvements.

    1. Proceeds from fines don’t go to the police at the moment anyway, it would be reasonably easy to channel them to road safety improvements rather than the consolidated fund.

      1. I know the don’t but I think the collection agency for any of these road fines should be able to keep an administrative fee towards the cost of their work.

        Balance – ring fence for road related spending.

  2. Raising fines in an election year? Surely any political advisor would be telling the government to wait until 2021

    1. No doubt the National party will claim that raising fines is another “tax on hard working New Zealander’s”. Won’t sway my vote anyhow.

    2. I don’t follow your logic Tom. Everyone in New Zealand thinks they are the best driver in the country. Therefore, the government becomes more popular because everyone thinks that other people are going to get fined more.

  3. I live near a busy busy road junction that is downright dangerous during rush hours traffic. I have seen many drivers over the years with phone held against ear talking away while negotiating the lights at junction. I have also seen or often heard the sickening sound of more accidents and one time saw a motorcyclist literally run over by a tradie in the ubiquitous white van who was arguing on his phone at the time.
    The final straw for me was when a courier van knocked off my neighbors daughter from her bike because he was using cell phone.
    Fortunately she was only bruised and scared.
    So my husband researched how to stop drivers using cellphones and quickly found cell phone jammers on the inter web. He eventually found one with 200 metre range. I have this switched on in the garden shed, closer to road and we have seen annoyed tradies, amongst others, holding cellphone at arms length out vehicle window trying to get reception.
    I believe that in some small way this has made our road junction safer for all

    1. Sorry to hear your stories. But I’ll be looking up jammers too, for all the same reasons.

      Once I had to breathe in the fumes from a car idling in a bus stop for more than ten minutes, with the driver using a mobile phone the whole time, then suddenly decide to do a U-turn, phone in hand, and nearly swipe a car coming along.

      I’m also worried about all the screens in cars.

    2. While I understand your frustrations, I’m afraid the actions you took might be counterproductive (apart from surely being illegal). People whose calls get disconnected will look at their phones to see what’s going on and will be even more distracted.
      And don’t forget, if there is an accident, you will also interfere with the phones of those trying to call emergency services.

      How about your neighbours? Can you be sure not to affect them? How would you like it if someone messed with your tv reception during the next rugby match or your probably still existing landline phone?

      1. It’s also jamming the data networks that emergency service vehicles rely on for communication and navigation, not to mention legal handsfree uses such as Spotify, and any neighbours with Spark’s Fixed Wireless.

        1. You’re right. They are much more important than people obeying the law and saving lives.

          How could Sara think that the life of her neighbour’s child is more important than people making phone calls. So selfish.

          I seriously doubt that is illegal. What exactly is the crime?

        2. If you could link it to actually saving lives then you might have a point. However, I can’t see how blocking communications around an intersection would help, if anything it would make it worse and people try and figure out why their call has just cut out.

          If it is OK to block communications here then it would be OK to block communications on every single road and it’s surrounds. That would have a serious impact on our ability to use the cellphone network given most houses are beside roads.

        3. A first-time poster with dodgy English pops up and claims to have solved distracted driving by making tradies hang their phones out the window (and presumably peering at the screens) by illegally denying telecommunications to those in a 200m radius?!

          Gullibility is alive and well.

    3. Sarah, As stated below this is illegal.

      RE your comment:

      ‘annoyed tradies, amongst others, holding cellphone at arms length out vehicle window trying to get reception’.

      This sounds more dangerous than the status quo.

      You need to stop the jamming.

      1. It would also pose problems for those who are not driving, ie passengers or pedestrians in the nearby vicinity.

        On the other hand, if motorists (tradies) want to alert themselves to police by holding their phone out of the window while driving they deserve to be penalised.

      2. an you please identify the part of the Crimes Act or Telecommunications Act (or any other Act) this breaches. Will be interested to read it.

  4. Agree with everything, not only should fines be raised to match inflation but they should also fit the severity of the offence. One thing also to mention is mobile phone use, a practice which was made illegal in 2009 but still done by hundreds of motorists daily.

    The penalty was set at a paltry $80 and 20 demerits. However in other countries:
    UK (£200) or ~$400 plus 6 demerits (out of a maximum 12)
    QLD ($417 to be increased to $1044 in February) and 4 demerits (out of 12)
    WA $417
    VIC $505
    NSW $359 (or $477 if caught in a school zone)

    It’s about time our lawmakers got some balls and took a real stand against dangerous driving practices.

  5. I really think the penalties and policing need to increase for red light running, which I see almost daily and which has enabled me as a pedestrian crossing on the green man on more than one occasion.

    In Germany (where speeding fines are even lower than in NZ) you usually get charged with endangering others when running a red light, pay 200€ and lose your license for a month. There are also red light cameras at a lot more intersections.
    Deliberate red light running is very rare there.

  6. Really good article and a timely discussion.

    The other issue is the ridiculously low price of parking tickets. This could be a post in of itself as well

    $12 if you overstay; and
    $40 if you don’t start a parking session in a paid parking zone.

    Like speeding – these rates are set in Wellington and have’nt shifted.

    Given it costs $5 to park per hour in parts of Auckland; there is a strong incentive to either not pay at all or pay the bare minimum and then take your chances with getting caught for the fine.

    I know someone who does this and overall they end up paying less than if they were a law abiding citizen.

    Essentially these people are storing their personal assets on public land for basically nothing; dont get me started on the opportunity cost in places where these on-street spaces could be bus lanes/cycle lanes etc…

    The problem then is that AT has very poor (legislatively mandated) powers to recover the debt. I’ve heard the bad debts are in the millions of dollars and there is some convoluted process that ends up with the MoJ just throwing the case out, as a $12 fine is uneconomic to pursue.

  7. Yes, I completely agree that drivers in NZ get away with blue murder on the roads in terms of breaking the road code and that despite the investments in speed camera’s and dedicated police resources (ironically doing the same job that the old traffic cops did before the Police insisted on absorbing them 😉 ); the regulations aren’t really anywhere near enforced enough. And I think it helps contribute to a general NZ culture of lazy roadcraft.
    So yes I would completely support both an increase of fines and the enforcement of collecting them.

    However; I also know that amongst Kiwis there is a culture of entitlement when it comes to automobiles and that it would especially anger many people and enough to influence their voting.

  8. In terms of dangerous driving antics, using a phone is bad – texting even worse – but one other thing that really bugs me is people driving at dusk with no lights on. Far too many people doing this – either oblivious to the need or the law – but it’s hugely dangerous, and seems largely ignored by the cops. For some reason, it always seems to be people in dark coloured or grey cars that are the worst, which makes it doubly dangerous.

    It could be so easily tackled – if NZTA could program their dot-matrix road signs to say “Lights on!!” at dusk – virtually zero cost and a big boost in safety. All the signs along the Wellington motorway could be programmed to flash that up at intervals – just takes a few minutes to program that into the system and potentially, lives saved.

    What I find bizarre though, is that in the 1980s when I was in the USA, our Ford Taurus (a bog-standard sedan) would turn the headlights on automatically when light conditions were low, and they would even automatically dip the lights when there was an oncoming vehicle – its been 35 years since, and we still haven’t got that as standard here? Astounding…

  9. Time to index them to inflation too (maybe every 5 years or something).
    Increasing speed fines should be automatic, not political football.

  10. Matt, as well as increasing fines they could look at increasing the number of demerit points. For example in the UK a speeding ticket will get you 3 points, out of a maximum of 12, and using a mobile phone will get you 6. In addition it takes 3 years before points get wiped, not 2 as in NZ. So in theory you can commit an average of just under 2.5 speeding offences a year in NZ and retain your license, whereas in the UK you can only commit an average of just under 1.33 speeding offences.
    Also, in the UK you get demerit points if you get caught by a fixed speed camera, whereas weirdly you don’t over here.
    The government could increase the number of demerit points for speeding (and other offences), apply them to fixed cameras and increase the number of years points stay on your license, all without getting accused of revenue gathering.

    1. “apply them to fixed cameras”

      So how do you prove who the driver was? Two car household with two drivers, we both drive both cars as needed. Recently got a speeding ticket for the car registered to my name but I was able to determine due to date/time that I wasn’t the driver. I would hate to have to prove that officially so that I didn’t get the points for someone else’s error.

  11. “ Finally, it’s also worth noting that it’s silly that the fine for not having a train ticket is the same as performing an act that could kill someone”
    The former is theft straight up.
    The latter is an arbitrary penalty for driving fast. As has been shown repeatedly, the vast majority of deaths on NZ roads don’t involve speeding and of those that involve speeding a good number are sole occupant/single vehicle accidents not too mention the vehicle “speeding” isn’t necessarily the cause of an accident. Scooters can also kill, but I don’t think anyone on here (myself included) is advocating to ban or fine them.
    Cost of living in NZ is very high and wages haven’t kept up, this just exasperates things.

    1. Are you seriously suggesting that we should keep traffic fines low because the cost of living is high!? Traffic fines are entirely voluntary and it is extremely easy to opt out of having to pay them.

    2. Nice try.

      Higher speed = increased risk of severe injury or death on impact.

      The fines need to reflect that, not be some token amount which is a joke compared to international practice, by the look of this post.

    3. You’re completely skewing the real facts. When analysing multiple factors associated in crashes, excessive speed appears more often than any factor, this includes incorrect speed applied for the conditions.

    4. If your definition of speeding is limited to breaking the posted speed limit you could be right. But in NZ so many of our posted speed limits are grossly inappropriate for safe driving. Gravel 1.5 lane roads with unposted 20k blind bends posted at the100k default rural speed limit. How mad is that?

    5. Fines need to be sufficient to prevent anyone taking risks with other people’s lives – whether it’s with lax worksite management, driving too fast, or firing a gun randomly.

      Suggesting fare evasion is a misdemeanour that warrants a higher penalty than life-risking behaviour, on the basis of it being “theft,” is simply an attempt to draw out people’s concerns for property. Comparing speeding with a few dollars in fare evasion doesn’t manage an emotive appeal. Instead it musters a revulsion at a set of starkly inhumane values.

    6. Are you suggesting that if we all drive around at 150 kmhr that the road toll wouldn’t go up because speed isn’t related to deaths?

  12. The idea of fines being proportionate to income/assets makes perfect sense. I read somewhere (possibly an urban myth) about some billionaire in Scandinavia got a whopping million dollar fine for speeding – but makes perfect sense since anything less is hardly a deterrent. And you get the same behaviour with parking e.g. sons of oil sheikhs in London parking their high end sportscars wherever they like – they think the fine is effectively just the cost of parking for them i.e. small beans.

    1. How much extra admin is involved in tying income to fines? Also many people, especially business owners have much lower incomes than their wealth would suggest.

      Demerits are probably the best way of dealing with more wealthy people as a loss of licence is a loss of licence no matter how well off you are.

  13. The speed sign lottery could easily be implemented in NZ. A number of them already contain cameras with the photos downloadable. Not able to be used for ticketing but for overspeed trend monitoring.

    1. There is a reason why those cameras ain’t used for speed ticketing. Speed cameras have to be on a approved list of models in use. You will find those monitoring cameras ain’t on that list.

      Also, most fixed speed cameras have ANPR devices as well, with the monitoring ones don’t have

      1. I love how his mother was “outraged” that her son got the $150 fine and that he wasn’t let off with a warning. NZ certainly has it’s share of people with entitlement attitudes. 16 years old is old enough to be responsible and I wouldn’t mind betting that he was caught after he’d dodged a few times before and staff had noticed something suspicious about him.

        1. And why not?
          He (or his mother) has gone to the media and therefore put him in the spotlight. Why would’ve it crossed his mind to not give his real name and address?

        2. As Daniel says why not? There are no excuses, lucky he doesn’t live in London, on London Transport the fine for fare dodging is £80, if you are a multiple offender its £1000 and a criminal offence if convicted. In Vienna they also throw the book at you, one of my colleagues was fined €105 last year for having the wrong ticket.

          I don’t think $150 is anywhere near enough, the fines for fare dodging and speeding and all manor of offences in NZ are far too low, fines need to be so painful that you really have to think twice about it.

        3. @Mike Dunno if I agree with you that the fines are too low. I think $150 dollars is about right for at least the first time caught. Caught repeat offenders probably need bigger fines and bans or forced community service if they don’t/can’t pay them
          The other things that make me a bit suspicious about this are:
          1) How it’s just one person. If there were two or three other people going to the media who’d copped draconian fines and felt that they could’ve been given a warning instead due to unfortunate circumstances; I’d be more likely to buy it.
          2) That Auckland Transport has stood firm and didn’t at least announce that they’d internally investigated the matter (even if they didn’t change the verdict). This suggests to me that the story we’re hearing via the boy and his mum is not the version they’ve established.

          If the kid had really not had his HOP card because he’d changed his bag for a field trip and forgot to get it from his usual one this one time and that he seemed like a nice honest & polite kid that the staff or wardens or whoever had seen using the train all the time and who they’d remembered had had his card on the previous checks; I doubt he wouldn’t be getting let off with a warning then. And does this really warrant a media story? Maybe he’s telling the truth, but it seems more likely to me that he’s not. And I’m far from the most assuming person.

        4. Because you’re suggesting he’d dodged a few times and staff had noticed something suspicious – and he is not guilty of that. We are innocent until proven guilty, remember. To load this onto a child is a shitty welcome to the world of adulthood. We can be more gentle. I know you’re able to consider a few different views, Daniel, so please think of these points:

          1) How it’s just one person…

          I don’t know how much time you spend with teenage boys in and about authority, but there’s a tension when the adults don’t understand them. I’ve got 2 teen sons and 4 teen nephews in Auckland. Many adults get what’s going on in their brains. A few get the social cues wrong and see arrogance where I’d see an attempt to stand on their own two feet, or negligence where I’d see concern about something else.

          I’d be more willing to bet this was one of those times when the adult involved misunderstood all the actions of the boy and decided to teach him a lesson.

          2) That Auckland Transport has stood firm…

          AT stood firm when some teenage girls coming from a climate strike were required to dispose of their placards before boarding a train, too. Yet that was clearly heavy-handed and ideological. The girls were quite unthreatening, the placards were small, and for the teachers’ strike soon afterwards, no teachers were prevented from using PT with much larger placards.

          AT often stands firm when they have no foundation. I have files of examples.

          3/ Changing from one’s usual bag is EXACTLY the situation that has left me and my family without a HOP card on us. So far, we’ve always had cash available so we’ve coped.

          4/ Going to the media doesn’t support your claim. I’ve actually written a post about some situations where people have gone to the media where they should have gone to the police, and have missed out on the necessary action as a result. Yet this is where we’re at; people think the media is how you get action, and there’s a lot in it – AT, in particular, is a backlash-controlled organisation. Presenting a reputational risk gets action far more quickly than presenting reason.

        5. There’s a lot we don’t know with this one. It could be that AT had come across him before, it could equally be that AT have gone over the top and made an example of him for a one off mistake.

          One thing we do know is he was on the train without a ticket, got caught and fined $150, a perfectly reasonable outcome on its own.

          The other thing we know is that mum decided to take it to the media and give everyone the chance to fill in the missing facts themselves.

          Another thing I know is that as a teenager I was an expert at damage control with my parents, making it look like I had been wronged rather than the one doing wrong. Either that or my parents knew exactly what I was up to and decided not to fight it, I guess I’ll find out myself in a few years when my kids reach teenagehood!

  14. From Julie Ann Genter 18/7/2018 (OIA answer)
    “It’s true the $80 infringement fee for driving while using a mobile phone is low by international standards, and we will be considering changes to this. The infringement also imposes 20 demerit points. When setting the penalty, the previous Government decided that demerit points offered a greater deterrent than an increased financial penalty. Demerit points can be serious for a motorist, as their driver licence is suspended for three months when 100 or more demerit points are incurred within a two-year period.”

    When I think of anything remotely nice to say about this seemingly abject indifference to raod safety I will post again.

    1. So basically the only time you need to stop using your phone is after you have been caught by police 4 times in 2 years. I wonder if that has ever happened to anyone?

  15. This isn’t far enough, they should also make zero tolerance mandatory, third party insurance should also be mandatory, and unregistered/insured cars should be crushed.

    Norway links car insurance to vehicle registration, all vehicles must be insured so all vehicles are registered.

    While we are at it professional driving instruction should be mandatory, kiwi drivers are generally pretty poorly trained drivers, then we allow our kids to be taught by there parents, this is madness. No wonder we have a high road toll.

  16. Fines for moving vehicle offences should always be accompanied by proportionate demerit points; for mobile phone offences the phone should be confiscated; and for serious enough driving offences (e.g. causing someone’s death) the vehicle should be confiscated.

    Simple!

  17. In the US, there is a groundswell of argument that since the sixth amendment gives the accused the right to cross-examine their accuser, this invalidates any prosecution based on unattended traffic camera evidence – because there is no-one to cross-examine.

    Yet another perverse outcome that makes me question the worth of a constitution.

  18. If we need any evidence that fines (or at least parking fines) aren’t a deterrent, then refer to this stuff article on the illegal car transporter parking on Gt North road, which reads:
    “ Tickets and fines had not deterred the transporter operators from parking illegally. Between April and December, 56 had been ticketed $40 for parking on broken yellow lines, while 26 had been pinged $60 for parking on the flush median. The companies considered the low value fines, set by the Ministry of Transport, as a business expense, Hannan said in April.”
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/118675768/aucklands-great-north-rd-to-get-revamp-to-stop-car-transporters-parking-illegally

    1. Low fines, that is.

      Fines escalating up quickly into $1000’s for subsequent offences by the same company would quickly see results there.

  19. What on earth is with the maximum fine being 1000 quid for the UK?

    I know lets make the fine proportional to income so it’s fair and so it’s an equal deterrent for every one, except for rich people, we should go easy on rich people when they speed because…?

      1. The largest speeding fine is a reported $290,000 (£180,000) ticket given to an anonymous Swiss motorist who was caught driving 137 km/h (85 mph) in a 80 km/h (50 mph) zone in a village near St. Gallen, Switzerland, in January 2010. The man in question was driving a red Ferrari Testarossa and the fine was calculated based on his wealth which the court assessed at $22.7 million (£14.1 million) – it was also increased because he was a repeat offender.

  20. I wonder if there is any correlation between the dramatic rise in speeding fines (mostly in Auckland) and drop in Auckland road deaths in 2019 from 2017.

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