Rory Sutherland Rory Sutherland

My solution to unfair traffic fines


My driveway now lies in the middle of an ‘Average Speed Check Zone’. It’s a wonderful arrangement – for me – since the slower traffic makes it easier to pull into the road. Yet I am still free to drive through the village like Fangio since average speed check cameras do not record your speed, only time taken between two points. Since I rarely drive past my house without stopping, it barely affects me at all.

It’s symptomatic of a wider problem. To what extent can we truly rely on technology to replace human judgment in the administration and enforcement of rules?

If a traffic camera catches one person a day, that driver is likely at fault. If it catches 100 a day, something else is wrong

The legalisation of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) in private car parks has created a predatory breed of car-park operator, who rely more on fining unwitting offenders than on charging for legitimate parking. You and I would assume that if you pull into a pub car park, sit in the car for ten minutes and then drive off without leaving the vehicle, you have not in any meaningful sense ‘parked’. Yet by failing to notice the deliberately wordy signs informing you that your registration has been clocked, you will soon be liable for a fine of £80, reduced to £40 if you agree to pay quickly – when the original charge you’d failed to pay is often as low as £2 or so.

Even that £40 concession is malicious in a way. It is a minor equivalent of an Alford plea in the United States, where to avoid the risk of the death penalty a defendant pleads guilty despite maintaining his or her innocence.

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