RESPONSE: Should traffic fines be doubled in the interests of road safety?

Australian penalties for failing to stop at a red light as of 2015.
Australian penalties for failing to stop at a red light as of 2015.

Last week, Fairfax WA Digital Journalist Andrew Elstermann wrote that he thinks traffic fines should be doubled to ensure more people ‪‎Arrive Alive‬ to their destination this year.

His column, which highlighted the differences in road traffic fines around Australia, got people talking and we have collated a selection of the public's comments for you to read.  

Vote in our poll below and have your say by emailing andrew.elstermann@fairfaxmedia.com.au

When demerits were introduced they had more affect than fines.

Perhaps fines should be varied according to income or wealth.  Would a $500 fine trouble you? It would ruin a pension only income person, while a millionaire would shrug it off. 

Would a millionaire shrug off loosing all their points? 

Maybe the value of the car they drive, indicating financial status, could affect the amount of fines. On the spot and camera fines could be less mandatory.

Eric Frater, Mortdale NSW.

The simple truth is that people don't think about the penalties until they get caught, so it doesn't matter how big the fines are or how many points people can lose it just wont have that much impact on the road toll.

Our governments know this, so I believe that increases in fines are more about revenue than safety. 

If we were serious about safety on our roads the technology's there to stop speeding once and for all, compulsory GPS based speed limiting.

One electronics package could be used to end speeding forever, almost completely eliminate car theft, end high speed (or even low speed) police chases and I'm sure a healthy imagination could come up with other functions that could be built into it.

In return as well as having satellite navigation in every vehicle we could reasonably expect much lower insurance costs. Sure it'd still be a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people, but it has to be worth it.

Steve Ross.

If the laws we have currently do not deter would be idiots, nothing will change.

If the speed limit was 40kms blanket across the world, an idiot intent on breaking that law will do so, as we all know big brother cannot be everywhere.

A common sense needs to prevail. What that is, ask the idiot that just killed others or himself. Here in Thailand kids ride scooters and motorcycles to get around and the things they do would fill the coffers of Greece 10 fold in weeks.

Just because laws are broken by clowns thinking they won't kill or be killed' the majority of of the populations of the world try to do what is correct, from early training, knowing what is right and wrong.

Trevor Maidment. 

There is a danger of making it so onerous that people will not pay and end up driving unlicensed.   

Then the compulsory third party insurance won't pay for the injuries they cause. That, to me, is a greater tragedy.

Fines are not necessarily an answer.  Community service orders, jail for some, impounding vehicles are alternatives. Some people refuse to learn, others use legalistic means to circumvent justice. 

My experience indicates judges are often deceived into softer sentences.

It's time that social responsibilities were emphasised in childrens' education, rather than their rights.

Australian penalties for talking on a mobile phone while driving as of 2015.

Australian penalties for talking on a mobile phone while driving as of 2015.

To bind society together, rather than individualism, which drives us apart.   

In fact, such an agenda should be taken on by all levels of government and media, so that everyone gets taught.   

The common good should govern all decision making. I accept that the common good sometimes requires individual suffering.

Ross Phillips, Bentley WA.

In response to your article, 99 times out of 100 it is not speed that is the cause of the crash, it is in fact a lack of attention at the time coupled with poor driver standards.

What needs to happen is a vast improvement in driver courtesy and general driving standards.

Many cars on Australian roads are of a very low standard mechanically, poorly maintained and with very low quality tyres fitted and lights are optional in many cases with many other problems.

Simply fining someone does nothing to improve road safety -  all it does is upset people. 

It should be much harder to get a license in the first place, driver courtesy should be a big part of it, keeping left when not overtaking and doing the posted speed limit instead of 10-20kms below the limit will make a difference.   

With proper driver standards and courtesy the road is a much safer and nice place to be.

Michael Pink. 

Firstly let me say in WA that in most instances the posted speed limits are too slow.

How many of these accidents you reported on were caused by excessive speed, how many had other causes?

I have been a volunteer ambulance officer in WA for 11 years and I cannot recall one accident I have attended that was caused through speed alone.

Fatigue is a big one, innatention is another, and being under the influence is yet another that scores very high.

But I am yet to see one that was speed alone.

I have also never seen an accident that was caused by not wearing a seatbelt, so I believe the fines are purely for revenue.

Australian penalties for failing to wear a seatbelt as of 2015.

Australian penalties for failing to wear a seatbelt as of 2015.

Here is my opinion, driving with a blood alcohol content over 0.05 is charged as attempted murder and if you hit someone or something then it's equivalent to a murder charge.

If you drive 10kms over the speed limit, you lose your car for 30 days, 20 km's over you lose it forever and 30 kms over is equivalent to attempted murder again.

If you get caught on your phone you lose your car for 30 days and if you get caught a second time you lose it for good. 

These measures plus licence suspensions and cancellations would make people drive slower, not drink and drive and not use their phones in the car. 

Dave Milkins. 

The proposal to double driving fines is inadequate for the purpose of making our roads safer by penalising drivers when there are other factors that must be considered.

The present death toll has been much reduced from 1970s before Random Breath Testing (RBT) levels by booze buses and almost mandatory breath testing by traffic police who stop motorists for any reason.

However, there remains an uncaring faction among drivers who believe that all accidents are caused by the actions  of others, regardless of the physical evidence at the scene.

I am advised that NSW police have the authority to cancel licences of P-Plate drivers who exceed the speed limit by 20km on the spot. So perhaps this measure could be extended to all drivers.

Perhaps the optimal solution comes at the sentencing stage of legal proceedings when the weight of the sentence is determined by the Magistrate.

When a speeding, or indeed any, traffic offence has been shown to include the voluntary ingestion of any substance, known to change the ability of a person to control a vehicle in an appropriate safe manner, then the Magistrate should be directed, by the respective state Attorney-General, to determine the sentence at the heavy end of available outcomes.

Furthermore, the now convicted motorist should also be required to pay liquidated damages to the total cost of damage caused by their irresponsible driving after voluntary ingestion of a substance that the driver knew, or should have known, would impair their ability to control the vehicle. 

This would include both property damage and full restitution for medical costs in the event of injury of others, including both passengers and third parties injured as a consequence of their driving, for the duration of medical treatment.

I should disclose that I have been driving for about 50 years and at one time my business commitments required me to drive over 1,000 kms per week.

Jack Arnold.