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“Warning: life is dangerous”

Councillor George Newhouse suggests a sign in place of lifeguards, after Australia's Supreme Court ordered a city council to pay $2m ($US1.1m) to a swimmer who was paralysed in a diving accident in a patrolled area of Bondi Beach, Sydney (Far Eastern Economic Review, May 2002).

Fines on ability to pay?

It has long been a concern that road related fines have a disproportionate affect on low income individuals and little effect on high income individuals. The following report presents a story from Finland where fines are scaled according to ability to pay, leading to cases where individuals have been fined US$50 000 for speeding.

At 46 miles an hour, he didn't set any land speed records. But Nokia executive Anssa Vanjoki could set the record for the costliest ever speeding ticket—a $103 000 fine. He was fined for speeding on a motorcycle in a 31 mph zone on an island near Helsinki last October, chief police inspector Olli Yliskoski said.

In Finland, traffic fines are not just based on the seriousness of the infringement, they're also tied to the offender's income, and there's no limit. Worse for Vanjoki, his fine was based on his net income in 1999, when he reportedly made $5.2 million because of option sales. He has appealed for the fine to be based on his lower year 2000 income.

In a similar incident last year, a Helsinki court slashed a traffic fine levied against internet millionaire Jaakko Rytsola for switching lanes too often. It was cut from $45 000 to $119 after his income showed a dramatic drop. Earlier, Rytsola paid a $74 600 traffic fine, reportedly the highest ever in Finland.

Yliskoski said Finnish authorities are considering changing the way incomes are used in determining the fines. “They should be proportioned to the danger afflicted”, he said. “If you fine somebody on the grounds of incomes peaking a certain year it can grow unreasonable” (based on; Daytona Beach News Journal, January 2002).