Penalties for traffic violations, e.g. in the form of fines, are part of the traffic law enforcement chain. According to deterrence theory, a sufficiently high chance of detection of a violation and a sufficiently high penalty will deter road users from committing traffic violations. This synopsis describes the effects of fine increase on several road safety indicators. Studies on fines and road safety have linked the increase in fines to changes in traffic violations, changes in recidivism (re-offending), and changes in crashes. A 2016 meta-analysis indicated that fine increases between 50 and 100% are associated with a 15% decrease in violations; that fine increases of up to 50% do not influence violations, and that fine increases over 100% are associated with a 4% increase in violations and thus tend to be counterproductive. The effects of a fine increase on recidivism are mixed, but the more severe and frequent offenders do not seem to be influenced by a fine increase. An increase of fines was associated with a 5-10% reduction in all crashes, and a 1-12% reduction in fatal crashes. In general, studies had insufficiently controlled for confounding factors and results should be interpreted cautiously. Moreover, most studies looked at the effect immediately after a change in fines and at places with high enforcement levels. Therefore, the possibility that the reported effects are limited in time and place cannot be excluded.
Increasing traffic fines
European Road Safety Decision Support System, developed by the H2020 project SafetyCube
European Commission, Brussels
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