A majority of British Columbians want speeding fines to be tied to an offending driver’s after-tax income, a new Research Co. poll has found.
The public opinion firm conducted an online study from March 18-20, gathering input from 1,000 Canadians, including 65 per cent who said they’re on board with a “progressive punishment” system in their community, while 24 per cent were opposed and 11 per cent were undecided.
Before gathering feedback, Research Co. told respondents that fines would be based on two indicators: the driver’s income and how many days a fine has gone unpaid.
Almost seven-in-10 B.C. residents, or 69 per cent, support “progressive punishment,” according to the firm. Feedback gathered in Quebec was the same, while people in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Atlantic Canada and Alberta were 63, 62, 60 and 59 per cent, respectively, in favour.
“Canadians in the highest income bracket are decidedly more dissatisfied with the concept of progressive punishment for speeding tickets,” said Research Co. President Mario Canseco.
“Opposition to this course of action among Canadians who live in households earning more than $100,000 a year reaches 34, 10 points higher than the national average,” he added.
Research Co. says a “progressive punishment” system for speeding drivers is already in place in countries like Finland and Switzerland, where drivers face fines based on their after-tax, or disposable, income and how much speed they go over the posted limit.
In B.C., however, speeding fines are currently set at a fixed rate.
ICBC lists traffic offences on its website and says those charged by police with excessive speeding face fines between $368 and $483 plus three penalty points, while fines for speeding in school/playground zones range from $196 to $253.
Saanich councillor’s motion stalls
In Saanich, a district councillor was pushing for council to greenlight a “means-tested traffic fines” model to tie speeding fines to wages, meaning higher-income earners would pay more.
Coun. Teale Phelps Bondaroff put forward a motion at a Jan. 9 meeting to ask the province to change the fee structure for driving and traffic violations.
“We want traffic fines to effectively deter people who break the laws on our streets, and that means charging people a fine they will actually feel,” Phelps Bondaroff said at the time.
Locals had mixed feelings about the proposal, including some who praised the measure and others who called it a cash grab that raised privacy concerns.
“I’m not necessarily thinking people should be treated differently because of their income, but it’s something to look at,” one local told CHEK News in January. “It takes away that ability to say, ‘Hey, I’ve got more money. I can do what I want,'” added another.
At a follow-up meeting, Phelps Bondaroff’s motion did not get the support of any of his colleagues, and the councillor said he was surprised no one was willing to step up and explore the idea.