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Comparative costs on speeding in Texas, Virginia, and Finland

Regardless of what sort of vehicle we have, whether it is new or old, a great car or a lemon, most of us speed. Some of the time we go with the traffic flow, a few miles an hour over the speed limit and occasionally zip around considerably faster. It is almost inevitable that eventually we get pulled over for speeding and may get a ticket. Here in Dallas and the surrounding Fort Worth and Arlington areas, these tend to be for a few hundred dollars.

There are a few places where this behavior is much costlier. Back in July, the state of Virginia implemented a new law which dramatically increases what offenders will be assessed for many traffic infractions. This new “civil remedial fee” dwarfs the normal penalty. For example, going 20 mph over the speed limit is considered “reckless driving” and carries a $1000 civil penalty in addition to the regular fine. Other examples are a $300 fee for failing to stop at a stop sign, and a $300 fee if an in car DVD player is playing a movie and an “obscene video image” is seen from outside the vehicle. The state expects to raise between $65-$120 million.

In the case of Virginia, the state legislature is trying to fill the state’s coffers from the pockets of drivers. In contrast, the Finnish system for penalizing misbehaving drivers can result in even bigger fines, – recently a wealthy internet entrepreneur was fined $71,400 for driving 43 mph in a 25 mph zone – but the rationale is very different. In Finland, the idea is that a penalty should impact everyone equally.

If the amount of a fine is fixed, then it disproportionately impacts the less affluent. So, the amount of the fine is calculated based on the driver’s income, dependants and a number representing the severity of the infraction. Before 1999, police depended on the offending driver to honestly provide his income, now police draw that information directly from the tax records. There are minimum fine values though, so even someone without income will still have to pay.

For example, based on the formula, the fine for driving 18 mph over the speed limit might be $82 (for someone earning only $975 a month). However, the driver would have to pay $106 – the minimum fine. As for the entrepreneur with the $71,400 fine? He received another fine less than a few months later for $44,100. He was quoted as saying that he supports the system though, and that “if you earn enough you shouldn’t even touch a car” since speeding could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to the richest people in Finland.

So, be careful if you choose to speed. Your fuel consumption goes up, the chance of an accident goes up, and you may be hit with huge fines in some places. Of course if your car is defective or is a sitruuna (Finnish for lemon) you definitely do not want to risk speeding around in it. If you purchased a new car and it has been at the dealer’s for repairs many times, you may have recourse under product warranty laws. You can find more information about these at my Texas lemon law practice website.

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