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 by||Currently||Inflation 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.
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
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’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