Around the world of traffic fines
Michelle Groh-Gordy, Correspondent
Feeling sorry for yourself because you received a traffic citation? Perhaps this little whirlwind tour of the consequences traffic violators face in other parts of the world will make you feel a bit better.
In Finland, when it comes to traffic citations, the more you earn, the more you pay. Finnish traffic fines are proportionate to the latest available data on the offender's income. Anssi Vanjoki, director of Nokia, was fined 116,000 euros ($139,489) after he was caught driving 16 mph over the speed limit on his Harley in Helsinki.
Note to Bill Gates: Steer clear of the land of the Finns.
In true James Bond fashion, an average citizen in London is covertly photographed nearly 300 times a day by the more than 1.5 million video cameras that keep a constant vigil on all public places.
The British are starting to use their extensive closed-circuit television cameras as a traffic-ticketing tool. By 2008, the program will be able to observe and ticket drivers on every stretch of urban road in the U.K. It appears that even Bond has a Big Brother.
Planning a quick trip south of the border? You should be aware that it is illegal in Mexico to talk on a cell phone while driving or to drive in the "fast" lane for longer than it takes to pass another vehicle. When you are pulled over for a traffic violation in Mexico, the unwritten rule is to negotiate a "mordida" (bribe) on the spot.
Although it is true that there are no speed limits on Germany's autobahns, you can be cited and given points for any number of traffic violations on other roadways. If you start accruing too many points, you can get rid of them by going to Fahrschule (rhymes with "traffic school") for additional training.
Short on funds, yet long on creativity, the Moscow authorities have come up with a new way to get speeders to slow down. The Russians have created a flat, plastic, life-size cutout of a police officer - complete, down to his two dimensional life-size police car and fake cardboard radar gun. The illusion is apparently so lifelike many drivers pull over and
wait patiently for the officer to approach their vehicle.
Don't even think about getting behind the wheel after you have had a sake or two in Japan. The tolerated blood-alcohol content for driving in Japan is zero percent.
When in Italy, if you see a man in uniform waving what appears to be a red lollipop at you, he's not some nice Italian man offering you a treat; he's a police officer pulling you over. No worries, though. He'll generally be nice enough to allow you to pay your citation from the comfort of your driver's seat.
Make sure you smile when you are driving in France. The French extensively use photo radar to catch speed violators. When driving in France, if all the French drivers around you have suddenly and mysteriously slowed down, take the hint: You have entered a photo-radar zone.
If you are visiting Spain and plan on driving, you better make a pit stop at an ATM before you get behind the wheel. In Spain, it is compulsory for nonresidents to pay traffic fines of up to 300.51 euros ($361) on the spot. If you don't happen to have the cash on hand, your car will be instantly impounded.
And every year, thousands of people are arrested and thrown into one of South Africa's grossly overcrowded, disease-ridden jails for failing to pay traffic fines.
So how's that traffic citation in your glove compartment looking to you now?