Fascist traffic fines in Finland

Several Nordic countries appear to have a traffic fine system that scales with the victim's income. Finland, however, has no upper bound and calculates fines automatically based on your previous year's taxes, and the result are huge fines for people with high last year's incomes:The Finns generally seem content with this state of affairs. Many consider it fair that those with high incomes should pay proportionally higher fines. The intent of fines is to discourage people from breaking the law, and high income individuals are not discouraged if the fines are low compared to their income. Making fines proportional to income, with no cap, addresses that problem.

So why is the system fascist?

In an ideal world, road behaviors that are truly dangerous, behaviors that are forbidden, and behaviors that are punished, would all be the same thing.

But they are not:

In the real world, people get fined for behaviors that are forbidden, but not dangerous.

In the real world, it is not possible for road engineers to match traffic regulations with actual conditions everywhere, all of time. So they overdo it. They overdo it big time:
  • It may be dangerous to drive fast through a certain neighborhood during daytime, but it might not be dangerous to drive by at a speed of 40 mph at three in the morning. Yet, the sign doesn't know what time it is, so a 30 mph speed limit will still apply at three in the morning.
  • A stretch of the road may be dangerous in certain weather conditions, but not on a clear sunny day. Yet, a speed limit will be in place regardless of the weather, because the sign can't know that it hasn't been snowing.
  • Sometimes a stretch of the road is perfectly safe, such as from the last house in a settlement to the sign that indicates the end of settlement. But signs are expensive, so there will be a low speed limit on the whole stretch of the road up to the sign - even if the road is safe, straight, clear, and tempting.
  • Sometimes a speed limit is simply unjustified. The road engineers reduce the speed limit in an effort to reduce accidents - but it has no such effect, and everyone just has to drive slower for no reason.
There are more cases like that, and in almost all of these situations, when do you expect to see a cop trying to gauge how fast you're driving?
  1. In situations when the speed limit is really there for a reason - when almost everyone adheres to it; when there are hardly any mad drivers who break it?
  2. Or, in situations when the speed limit is there for no apparent reason whatsoever, and people are tempted to break it, because really, how stupid do you feel driving 30 mph on a straight, wide, clear, dry stretch of road?
It is one thing to drive recklessly, but quite another to make a judgement call to ignore a sign when it is clearly intended for a different time or for a different place. In most cases when people are fined, they are fined without having really threatened anyone. Fines proportional to income may make sense when the offense was something truly dangerous. But it is outrageous when you have to pay the value of a house for essentially driving into a speed trap.


boris_kolar said...

Take the law of unintended consequences into account, and you get a system that promotes tax evasion and moving business offshore.

denis bider said...

Ah yes, it does. What else it does is, it promotes limousines and personal drivers. I once got caught by a speed trap despite seeing the cops and having best intent, simply because I misinterpreted the speed limit, and thought it was higher than in fact it was. In the Finnish case, you are risking on the order of $10,000 - $100,000 for making such a stupid mistake. You're better off spending that money on a cute personal driver, and then you can do other stuff while she drives you around.

Also, she can afford to drive fast, because she's less well paid, her fines will be lower, and you can pay them for her. :-)

laguna beach local said...

Americans came from Europe and we look at you stupid idiots and scratch our heads. Why do you dumb dumbs suck so bad. Can't protect yourself from Russia and China who would pound on you if it wasn't for us. Your economies suck and there is no upward mobility in your society. Just OLD MONEY and poor dumb Euros with bad teeth. Wake up. In America I have seen many new millionares in the last 8 years. I'm one of them. So wake up copy us and be nice. You guys in France are spineless jerks. I know 7th graders in this country that could kick the crap out of every man in your military. I'm going surfing. At least you have Biarritz. Nice going on the 7 billion stock losses you morons. FRANCE= SOLD

denis bider said...

You make some good points there, Laguna Beach Local, except that upward mobility in Europe is in fact higher than in the United States. It's twice as high, if I recall correctly.

But overall, yes - even a moron writing apparently under the influence of drugs can't miss this point - indeed, France sucks. :-)

Anonymous said...

your a cool dude. No harm no foul.

Navion said...

can you post a link to the study about upward moblilty that you quote I am trying to find more studies about this topic

denis bider said...

navion: I think it's a figure I picked up in some article in Time, or The Economist, or some other news source I read. Take it with a grain of salt, therefore.