Author Neil Donnelly, Suzanne Poynton and Don Weatherburn
Published August 2016
Report Type Crime and Justice Bulletin No. 195
Subject Sentencing; Socioeconomic factors and crime
Keywords Fines, default, income, employment, willingness to pay

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To determine whether the fine amount, the fine detection mode and the socioeconomic status of the offender influence the willingness to pay a fine.


Adults from NSW were surveyed about their experience with traffic fines and willingness to pay fines. 71 per cent of respondents were obtained from a CATI sample and 29 per cent from on-line surveys. Those who had been fined were randomly allocated to scenarios about paying a future speeding fine based on fine amount ($234, $436, $2,252) and detection mode (speed camera or police).


2,222 (70%) of the 3,154 respondents had been fined for a parking or traffic offence. 21 per cent of this group had not paid their fine on time, while 41 per cent had considered not paying it. Higher fine amounts were associated with lower willingness to pay. While over 80 per cent of the $254 fine scenario was likely or almost certain to pay a future speeding fine, this was only the case for 69 per cent of the $436 scenario and 31 per cent of the $2,252 scenario. There was no significant effect of the mode of detection being speed camera or police. Respondents who were not in paid employment were less willing to pay the $2,252 fine than respondents who were in paid employment (63% certainly would not or would be unlikely to pay vs. 53%). Respondents who had previously considered not paying their fine were more likely to be male, younger, having known a non-payer of a fine who got away with it, had more prior speeding offences and had been fined more recently.


Consideration should be given to conducting an economic analysis to determine at what point, the marginal costs associated with higher fines exceed the marginal benefits, at least for offences where fines are commonly used.

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