Jeff Sheppard, Attorney in New Jersey Asks: Do Flat-Rate Tickets Discourage Traffic Violations?

Posted on: February 26, 2018
NEW JERSEY. Traffic tickets are designed to deter drivers from making dangerous decisions behind the wheel. Speeding tickets, tickets for running red lights, tickets for running stop signs all come attached to the idea that by forcing violators to pay a fee, people will be less likely to commit the crime in the first place. We all know that speeding, running red lights, and running stop signs is a serious violation that can result in car accidents and personal injuries. The stakes are high. Despite this, New Jersey continues to issue flat-rate tickets to violators. Why is this a problem?

Imagine it this way. If a wealthy individual gets a traffic ticket, a $150 dollar fine may mean nothing to her. Yet, if a poor person on the verge of homelessness or eviction gets a traffic ticket, the same ticket could mean that rent doesn’t get paid or that the person cannot afford groceries. This disparity in punishment means that richer people may break the law more flagrantly, because they can afford the violation, while poor people suffer higher consequences. Some have argued that the best way to end this disparity in justice is to make violators pay a portion of their income as a fine.

According to Forbes, poorer individuals don’t always have the resources to fight fines that are issued wrongly. If you are working two jobs to make ends meet, you won’t necessarily have the time to take off work to go to court to fight a wrongly issued parking ticket.

The Atlantic reports that countries that impose fines based on income have seen some good results. In Finland, for example, individuals who are high earners could face speeding tickets as high as $100,000 or more. Under Finland’s system, for example, police take a look at a person’s income, estimate how much disposable income a person has per day, and then estimate how much the fine should be based on the seriousness of the violation. A wealthy person will pay a greater fine than someone who is poor, but the proportion of the fine to income will be the same for each violation.

Researchers have found that wealthier individuals are likely to drive more recklessly than poor people. Why? Is it because they can afford the fines associated with speeding tickets?

Until the U.S. fine system starts taking into account income, poor people will continue to shoulder more burdens when they are ticketed. This isn’t good for society and it isn’t good for driver safety.

Another way that the general public can hold reckless drivers accountable is by pursuing lawsuits when drivers get into accidents that result in injuries. Jeff Sheppard is a personal injury attorney in New Jersey who works with victims and families to help them seek justice after crashes. If you’ve been hurt, you may be entitled to seek damages for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Visit our firm at to learn more.