At least 12 per cent of fixed-charge penalties for speeding are going unpaid annually, according to Garda data.
Between 2018 and 2020 the force issued about 454,500 fines countrywide. At an initial cost of €80 each, this represents potential revenue of more than €36 million.
However, figures provided to Social Democrats TD and co-leader Catherine Murphy indicates that, at a minimum, about 55,000 of those were not paid during that three-year period.
It is not known how many motorists who fail to pay their fines end up in court or are convicted.
In 2018, according to the breakdown, 136,113 fines were issued but just 115,466 were paid within the statutory timeframe. The corresponding numbers for 2019 were 137,140 issued against 115,731 paid; and in 2020, 181,263 were issued but only 153,531 paid.
A relatively small number of fines were also settled through what is known as the third payment option. In cases where fines are not paid by the initial deadline, court proceedings are initiated but drivers can still avail of the third payment option in the days immediately before their court appearance. In such cases the penalty is doubled to €160.
For the three-year period covered, 14,771 fines were paid through this last-chance option, an average of just over 4,900 per year.
Are the roads safe?
It is unclear if these numbers are included in the statistics that set out those fines paid during what is termed the “required timeframe”. However, even if they are taken as being in addition to those, it still leaves between 16,000 and 22,000 unpaid fines per year, or a rate of between 12 and 13 per cent.
“The whole idea of fines is [that they act] as a deterrent. If they are unpaid and there is no follow-up you would have to ask how effective the legislation is,” said Ms Murphy.
“The issue is less about money and more about making sure the roads are as safe as possible and that we reduce the number of accidents and fatalities.”
Susan Gray, chairwoman of the Parc road safety advocacy group, said a key question raised by the data is how many of those who do not pay fines are prosecuted.
“Are these people being brought to court? Are they getting penalty points?” she asked.
Parc believes a 12 per cent rate of non-payment is actually quite healthy but maintains that speeding continues to be a big problem countrywide – the number of fines recorded in the data represents only those who are caught.
“You see it every day; we believe it’s getting worse,” said Ms Gray. “We notice a massive increase in speeding and dangerous driving on the roads.”