An interesting proposal to charge the wealthy more for traffic fines could make its way to the BC government with enough support.
Saanich Councillor Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff wants to see BC implement a traffic fines system that takes people’s income and wealth into account.
“One hundred dollars doesn’t mean the same thing to everybody,” said Phelps Bondaroff in an interview with Daily Hive on Saturday, January 21. “We want people to be deterred from breaking the law in the first place.”
Road safety has been a huge concern for the Vancouver Island community of Saanich, which has seen several deaths and serious injuries on its roads in recent years. In 2021, a teen died as a result of his injuries sustained in a collision on Cedar Hill Cross Road.
We are very sad to report that the youth pedestrian involved in the collision on Cedar Hill Cross Rd has succumbed to their injuries.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family, friends, and anyone that has been affected by this very tragic incident.#Saanich pic.twitter.com/fB5skpmJ8e
— Saanich Police (@SaanichPolice) December 8, 2021
“The reality is they’re not safe,” said Phelps Bondaroff, who wants to see more active transportation in his community. “People shouldn’t have to worry about dying to get to school work and get their groceries.”
In his resolution that will be presented to Saanich council on Monday, he wrote, “Our current traffic fine system is biased against low-income individuals and fails to serve as an effective deterrent to those with higher incomes.”
According to Phelps Bondaroff, fines can have a significant impact on lower-income individuals, and they could make the difference between paying rent or putting food on the table that month. Meanwhile, for the wealthy, traffic fines are a “pittance.”
“A fine of $121 has absolutely no deterrent effect on someone who makes millions a year, and as such, these fines fail to result in increased compliance with traffic regulations, resulting in decreases in road safety,” said Phelps Bondaroff.
Also, charging higher fines to high-income individuals could potentially create revenue that would be reinvested into improving road safety. Here’s Phelps Bondaroff talking about his latest council updates on TikTok:
#Saanich Council update! A little more about the four motions I’ll be presenting at Monday’s meeting (Jan. 23, 2023). #LocalPolitics #YYJ #VictoriaBC #Canada #BritishColumbia #RoadSafety #ClimateChange
Sliding-scale traffic fine systems such as the one Phelps Bondaroff is proposing have existed in Europe for years. Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland all have a similar program.
“The world record for a traffic ticket was the equivalent of US $1.02 million and was levied in Switzerland in 2010 to a motorist clocked at going 290 km/h,” said Phelps Bondaroff.
The road to getting this system in place looks like this: Phelps Bondaroff will present his resolution to the council on Monday. If approved, the next step would be to put it to the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities. Then, it would go to the Union of BC Municipalities next. Finally, it would be presented to the provincial government for exploration.
The reaction from the public to his proposal so far has been overwhelmingly positive.
While there are practical challenges to explore, like how this equity would apply to the children of wealthy parents, Bondaroff says that means tests already exist for things like income tax, social supports, and fair pharmacare.
Still, since announcing his proposal, Phelps Bondaroff has seen some people have a “knee-jerk reaction to the word equity.”
“The goal of fines should be to deter rule-breaking, meaning that fines need to be felt the same, by all people, rather than being the same amount value,” he said. “The reason why I take this quite seriously is from my work in wildlife crime, where you’ll see people who see the fine as just the cost of doing business.”
If a boat comes in with a million dollars worth of fish in its hold, but they’re slapped with a $10,000 fine, that fine isn’t much of a deterrent.
“If you want fines to deter illegal behaviour and punish offenders, they need to be high,” he said.
What do you think of this potentially equitable solution?