A Saanich councillor is pushing to make higher-income earners pay more for traffic violations.
Teale Phelps Bondaroff brought forward a motion to the District of Saanich council on Jan. 9 aimed at eventually asking 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.
He suggests the province bring in the “means-tested traffic fines” model, which would base fine costs on an offender’s income rather than a fixed rate.
“The current fine system disproportionally impacts people with lower incomes, and fines fail to serve as an effective deterrent to the very wealthy,” Phelps Bondaroff explained. “This motion tries to solve both of those problems and, by extension, improve road safety.”
He said the “means-tested traffic fines” model has been adopted around the world, in places like Finland, Denmark, Germany and France, to essentially level the playing field on the amount of pressure a traffic violation, like a speeding ticket, has on a person.
For example, Phelps Bondaroff said a $150 fine for failing to stop for a pedestrian could mean very different things to people in different financial situations.
“For some people, that might be the difference between buying groceries that month or their rent. Whereas for other people, that might mean selecting a slightly less good wine over dinner. So $100 doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody,” he said.
Some residents who spoke to CHEK News on Saturday had mixed reactions to the proposal.
“I’m not necessarily thinking people should be treated differently because of their income, but it’s something to look at,” Bill Innes said.
James Neil told CHEK News it was a great idea.
“It takes away that ability to say, ‘Hey, I’ve got more money, I can do what I want,'” Neil explained.
Ultimately, the final decision is not up to the District of Saanich, as traffic violation fines fall under the Motor Vehicle Act, which is the provincial government’s jurisdiction.
When asked about the possible change on Friday, B.C. Premier David Eby said the proposal was “interesting.”
“I think every British Columbian values road safety,” Eby said. “Happy to look at any suggestion people bring forward. This one is an interesting one, I’ll say that.”
Phelps Bondaroff’s motion asks the District of Saanich to ask the Union of British Columbia Municipalities to request the provincial government explore implementing a means-tested traffic fine system.
This goes hand-in-hand with another notice of motion he brought forward to utilize traffic cameras for infraction enforcement.
Both proposals will be discussed at the District of Saanich council meeting on Monday.