GRA criticises proposal linking speeding fines to salaries

Emphasis should be on roads enforcement and preservation of life, says garda body

A secondary school teacher on the first point of a 25-point pay scale could be fined €894 for speeding if the UK system was introduced here. File photograph: Alan Betson

A secondary school teacher on the first point of a 25-point pay scale could be fined €894 for speeding if the UK system was introduced here. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

A proposal that speeding motorists should face fines based on the size of their pay-packets has been criticised by the Garda Representative Association.

The association which represents 10,200 members of the 13,000-strong Garda force described the move as “very unhealthy” and said the emphasis should be on “the preservation of life”.

Speaking at the association’s annual conference in Galway, general secretary Pat Ennis said he would be “vehemently opposed” to the move. He said “deficiencies” in the system should be countered with greater enforcement resources, as “roads policing policy is designed to reduce deaths on our roads and that’s the priority” .

The idea that wealthy people caught speeding in expensive cars would have less fear of an €80 fine than those on lower incomes was first put forward by RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock in an interview with this newspaper in December 2015. She said at the time: “€80 is nothing to someone who is driving a Range Rover or similar type vehicle.

“An €80 fine going out to a multimillionaire in a 5 Series (BMW) is not appropriate, if he is travelling at 180km/h.”

From the authority’s point of view the most interesting example is the ministry of transport in Finland, where speeding fines are linked to the income of the driver and the level by which the driver has broken the speed limit in a 50-50 split.

Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland all have versions of a “sliding scale” fine for motoring offences.

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 in Finland in 2004. Mr Salonoja was fined €170,000 because he earned about €7 million a year. In Finland, fines are based on the annual incomes of motorists caught driving more than 20km/h over the limit.

From Monday, new guidelines which apply in England and Wales mean speeding fines equivalent of 1½ times the motorist’s weekly salary can be imposed. Under new guidelines for magistrates, motorists caught doing 51mph (82km/h) in a 30mph (48km/h) zone or 101mph (163km/h) on a motorway will face fines from 150 per cent of their weekly income, rather than the previous level of 100 per cent. The British Sentencing Council said the move aimed to ensure there was a “clear increase in fine level as the seriousness of offending increases”. The maximum fines allowed by law remain the same, so speeding drivers cannot be fined more than £1,000 (€1,180) unless the offence takes place on a motorway, where the limit is £2,500 (€2,950).

A spokesman for the RSA said the plan was “at a very early stage” and if approved would be “an ambition” in the reviewed Road Safety Strategy 2013-2020.

“If the Minister approves it we would have to put flesh on the bones of the plan,” the spokesman said.

However a spokesman for the Department of Transport said it is currently considering, with the RSA, to include an action in the mid-term review to “deal specifically with speeding”.

“That action may include reference to graduated penalties for speeding and the appropriate court penalties for same up to and including disqualification. However, the specifics of the action itself and the wording to be included in the action have yet to be discussed and agreed with the key stakeholders,” he said.

So who will pay what?

Irish motorists may face speeding fines based on how much they earn. The Road Safety Authority proposal is yet to be signed off by the Government but may be similar to a new regime introduced this week in the UK.

If a similar law were introduced in the Republic some people could face very hefty fines.

Based on their public office salaries and not including any private sources of income the following people could face minimum fines as follows:

– Minister for Transport Shane Ross: Based on an annual salary of €161,451 (€89,965 for being a TD plus €71,486 for being a Minister) giving a weekly salary of €3,104 and a potential fine of €4,657.24.

– Taoiseach Enda Kenny: Based on a salary of €190,233 (€89,965 for being a TD and €100,268 for being Taoiseach), giving a weekly wage of €3,658.32 and a potential fine of €5,487.

– The average industrial worker was paid €844.40 a week in the last quarter of 2016 according to the Central Statistics Office. This exposed them to a speeding fine potential of €1,266.60.

– Those working in the financial, insurance and property sectors on an average of €1,095.60 per week would face a potential fine of €1,643.40.

– A Garda trainee on the first point on the incremental pay scale and before allowances would earn €28,405.30, according to the Garda website. This would leave them open to a potential fine of €819.39.

– A secondary school teacher on the first point of a 25-point pay scale earns €596.32 per week, giving a potential liability of €894.