How does a $200,000 speeding ticket grab you? For driving a mere 25 mph over the limit? Well, we're not talking about the U.S. -- this world-record speeding fine was levied in Finland -- but did you know that the maximum fine for speeding in some areas of Canada could reach $25,000? American drivers may or may not consider themselves lucky that speeding fines top out here at about $2500 for the worst offenders and that freeway speed cameras are a relative rarity. But what happens when they go on vacation? Speeders beware: We take a look at the world's most expensive places to get clocked.
Finland, Denmark (unlimited)
Highest Fines: $200,000 (or more)
Even if you're one of the richest men in Europe, a nearly $200,000 speeding ticket is going to pang just a little (and that was in 2002, when $200,000 was a lot of money). The Trick here is that Finland, and nearby Denmark, both levy speeding fines depending on the annual income of the driver unfortunate enough to pick up a ticket. In this case, records showed that Jussi Salonoja, a 27-year-old heir to a northern European meatpacking empire, earned $11.5 million in 2002, which after a complex calculation by the courts resulted in the world-record fine of about $200,000. And all that for driving 50 mph in a 25 mph zone. A Finnish business executive also had a $165,000 fine reduced to a mere $9000 after he restated his earnings to the courts.
Highest Fines: $25,000
Though generally a speeding ticket at the higher end in Canada will cost you no more than $1000 -- which isn't an insignificant amount -- a motorcyclist caught at 164 mph in Alberta last year paid out a whopping $12,000 speeding fine in a deal struck with prosecutors that allowed him to keep his license. The same court also has levied an $8,500 fine on a motorist who struck a similar deal. And just in case you're tempted to put your foot down on the province's incredibly straight, and often empty, freeways, just remember that the maximum fine for speeding in Alberta is $25,000. Excessive speeders in Ontario, meanwhile, also can face fines of up to $10,000.
The United Kingdom
Highest Fines: $8,000
The UK, like many other countries, fines speeders on a sliding scale based on how fast the driver was traveling above the limit and conditions in the area the driver was clocked. But a Porsche 911 driver caught in 2007 at 172 mph on a rural back road resulted in British authorities doubling the fine for careless driving from $4000 to $8000. While the Porsche driver in question -- who police had clocked while they had stopped another motorist for doing 115 mph -- was merely ordered to pay $1250 in court costs, he was also ordered to spend 10 weeks in jail. General speeding tickets, which largely are enforced by speed cameras, are a mere $100.
The United States
Highest Fines: $2500
Drivers unlucky enough to be clocked at high speeds in Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire all are liable to be fined up to $1000 for their actions. But strikingly, drivers clocked at speeds deemed unsafe in Michigan, New Jersey and Texas all are subject so a second fine being imposed a year later that often can tally more than the original $1000 once court costs are included. Last year, Virginia repealed a law that allowed a court to impose fines of $2500 for driving more than 10 mph above the legal limit, or a speed it deemed reckless. And be aware that jail time is mandatory for driving deemed reckless in many states and municipalities across the country.
Norway & Iceland
Highest Fines: 10% of annual income and jail time (Norway), $2700 (Iceland)
Travelers already will know that Norway is absurdly expensive in many ways, as Iceland used to be before its banking system collapsed last year, and their speeding fines are no different, at 10 per cent of annual income and $2700 respectively. But Norway distinguishes itself by imposing a mandatory minimum jail term of 18 days for speeding offenses deemed excessive alongside the hefty fine. Speeders can also face community service or a license suspension of more than three years. In Iceland, higher fines are justified by their supporters by the danger of driving on roads that can turn quickly from tarmac to gravel, often leading to unintended consequences for fast drivers.
Highest Fines: $1800
While the maximum fine for speeding can top $1800 depending on an offender's income and the road conditions where the offense occurred, we're a little more concerned with the trend toward on-the-spot fines that are collected by the local constabulary for offenses ranging from speeding to driving while talking into a phone or failing to buckle up even in the back seats. Interestingly, most of the police vehicles are equipped with mobile ATM machines so there is no need for police to march a driver to a faraway cash point. Drivers who can't pay are forbidden to drive. But who, we ask, regularly has $1800 on hand, or a credit or debit card withdrawal limit to match? And what happened to innocent until proven guilty?
France, Switzerland, Italy
Highest Fines: $2100
Yes the image of a Citroen 2CV going far past the speed limit is difficult to conjure, and many of us also have been the victim of a tailgating Italian high-revving behind us in a tiny Fiat 126, but stereotypes aside, speeding is a seriously expensive business in western Europe, where enthusiasm for domestic car production and Formula One racing go hand-in-hand. Speed cameras are common and on the rise in France, and a speed deemed excessive can result in jail time. European motorists also are getting used to the fact that points levied on a license in a different country to their own now stand on their domestic license -- so a British driver that speeds in Italy can have points added to their UK license after a series of bilateral agreements was struck between European nations. Is the US next?
Highest Fines: $857
Speeding Down Under can cost you a pretty penny, and some may be tempted to put down their right foot while driving through Australia's massive, empty interior -- it'd take a brave cop to be waiting on a roadside in that heat -- but tickets here are increasingly expensive, and common, as a result of speed cameras. Redflex, the company that's brought so many red-light cameras to the US, pioneered its hi-tech systems here, and operates in most major cities. Be aware that Australian authorities are increasingly pursuing speeding tourists once they have returned to their country of residence, and note that, in the event a speeding ticket is not paid, a foreigner may have difficulty reentering Australia.
Highest Fines: $800
Maybe you thought they all rode bikes in Holland, but a speeding ticket sustained here would soon shock you out of a previously held image of pedaling along windmill-lined bucolic country roads as the only mode of transport. A high-end fine levied for speeds deemed excessively dangerous can result in a fine of $800 or more. While every-day fines are paid to an officer on the spot, and penalties for tailgating also are common, drivers caught at double the speed limit are subject to state penalties including jail and having their vehicles confiscated. And there's nothing like having your car taken away to leave you riding a bike to work every day.
Highest Fines: $623
It's only on Germany's world-famous Autobahns where there is no speed limit, and drivers can, and often do, drive at speeds in excess of 180 mph in the land that gave us Porsche, BMW and Mercedes (if you've ever been caught behind a truck in one of the slower lanes, you'll know exactly what we're talking about). But that doesn't mean German authorities want the rest of their driving experiences to resemble the Nurburgring: Speeders caught driving at 45 mph or more over the speed limit on regular roads will face a fine topping $600, a three-month license suspension and four points on their license. Achtung!