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Luxury vehicle drivers in S’pore should pay higher fines for traffic offences: NMP Walter Theseira

Richer drivers don't feel the pinch as much as poorer drivers, he claimed.

Joshua Lee | July 10, 04:38 pm

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The Road Traffic Act was recently amended to impose harsher penalties on irresponsible drivers.

Irresponsible drivers to face harsher punishments under Road Traffic Act amendment

During the debate over the amendment, Nominated Member of Parliament Walter Theseira suggested implementing fines that are linked to income or wealth of the offender.

NMP: Link traffic fines to income or vehicle value

Using a study that was published in 2004 to illustrate his point, Theseira stated that higher fines do deter unsafe driving. However, increasing fines would have less impact on older drivers and drivers of newer cars.

“(The) deterrent effect of the fine depends on the income or wealth of the offender. Richer offenders simply feel the pinch of a fine less,” he said.

Theseira, who is also an Economics professor at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, explained that the fine has to be adequate enough to deter all motorists, regardless of income.

“A fine that is large enough to be meaningful and appropriate to punish the average motorist may be too large for lower income motorists and too small for the richest motorists. This is an obvious limitation to optimal fines in practice. Fines don’t work if they are so large that people can’t pay, and fines also don’t work if they are not meaningful deterrents.”

Hence, Theseira suggested calibrating fines based on the wealth of the offending motorist.

For example, fines can be based on the offending motorist’s vehicle value on the open market. He said:

“I think it reasonable to presume that the driver of a large luxury car is able to pay more than one driving a cheaper vehicle, and would likely regard the demerit points and other consequences of an offence as far more serious than the value of the fine itself.”

Transport experts disagree

In response to his points, however, a transport researcher and a transport consultant that Today spoke to cautioned against having such a discriminatory law.

The researcher said that aside from implementing fines to solve the problem of speeding, it is more important to understand the “crux and nature” of traffic accidents, which can be affected by many other factors such as driver behaviour, road conditions, and design.

FB comments divided

Facebook users were also quite divided over Theseira’s suggestion; those against it claimed that this discriminates against the rich.

One even drew an extreme conclusion:

Welp.

Top image by Joshua Lee

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