Those facing an €80 speeding fine should spare a thought for Jussi Salonoja a 27-year-old businessman who was caught driving at twice the speed limit earlier this month. Finland's tough speeding laws mean that Salonoja was fined €170,000. It's the largest-ever speeding fine handed out in Finland.
Fines are based on the annual incomes of motorists caught driving more than 20km per hour over the limit. Salonoja, one of Finland's richest men, is heir to a leading local sausage business. He had earnings in 2002 of about €7 million, so he is unlikely to have any problem paying the €170,000. However, he may yet avoid paying the entire fine when the case reaches court. Previous several wealthy defendants have successfully argued their incomes were less than official figures showed and were able to get exorbitant fines reduced by judges.
In 2002, Nokia executive and motorcycle enthusiast Anssi Vanjoki had his €115,000 fine cut to less than €6,000. The year before, former internet millionaire Jaakko Rytsl had a €50,000 fine reduced in court to €100, but this was increased again to €16,000 in an appeals court.
Salonoja is no stranger to Finland's speeding laws. Four years ago he had another run-in with a police radar when his BMW was recorded doing 200km per hour on a motorway. His income being considerably more modest then, he was fined a mere €39,000, which he paid up without a fight.
Finnish police can use GSM mobile phones to check the income details of speeding motorists on the side of the road, leaving them in no doubt what fine should be levied.
Fines in Ireland range from €80 to €800. Recent Garda figures show that 25,914 people were caught speeding in the six weeks from November 23rd, 2003, to January 4th, 2004, representing an increase of 7,575 on the previous year. That's at least €2 million in fines over a month and a half- or, in a land of speeding Finnish sausage millionaires, €4.5 billion.