Speeding fines, parking tickets: why do people complain when they know they’re doing the wrong thing?

Zoya Patel 11 August 2021 91
Police officer with a speed camera

If you do the crime … you know the rest. Photo: ACT Policing.

I occasionally deliberately break the rules.

I park in a short term spot near work once in a while when I’m in a rush because the only other public parking is blocks away. I leave my car beyond the mandated period knowing full well that I might get a ticket. And when I get the ticket, I do something that it seems fewer and fewer people are willing to do – I accept the known consequences for my actions, and I pay it. On time. Without complaint.

I have occasionally had a speeding fine, too – the last one was well over a decade ago, but I got three in one week when the speed limit changed in Woden near the Westfield and I didn’t realise. It was well signposted, and if I hadn’t driven on autopilot and actually read the signs I passed, I would have realised. So I paid my fines. It was an expensive month.

READ ALSO: No excuses for drivers flouting city slowdown

Watching people lose their heads over the speed limit change in Civic this past month, I’m questioning what they consider the law to be in place for? Is the fact that there are consequences for breaking it really that earth-shattering a realisation? Or is it just that people are fine with rules when they apply to others, just not when they find themselves on the receiving end of a consequence?

The cries of unfairness at the speed limit being dropped to 40 km/h in a high foot traffic area is confusing to me. Who is this unfair to? The pedestrians who may have a safer journey across the major intersections on Northbourne Avenue? The drivers who have to slow down for approximately five minutes of their drive? Don’t all of these people already understand the social contract we have in place, where we all benefit from a democratic and structured society in return for following the rules?

People seem determined to argue that things like speed and red light cameras or parking fines are just ‘revenue raising’. Well, the revenue only gets raised if people do the wrong thing. If you don’t want to pay a speeding fine, don’t speed. If you think the signposting wasn’t fair, then you probably need to pay better attention when driving.

And as this very publication has pointed out, there are numerous mechanisms in place to allow you to dispute a fine if you think it is genuinely unfair – another positive aspect of the democracy we’re lucky to live in.

READ ALSO: Been pinged on Northbourne Avenue? Here’s what you can do about it

It seems like so many of us are determined to have our cake and eat it too – we want safe roads for our children and families, but we don’t want to be held to the safety standards ourselves when it isn’t convenient. We want our government to maintain our roads, hospitals, schools and other amenities, but if they gain revenue from lawbreakers, that’s unacceptable.

As far as I’m concerned, the exchange is both fair and transparent. Do the wrong thing, pay the consequence. Do the right thing, and save your pennies. The choice and agency are actually in your hands.

What's Your Opinion?

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91 Responses to Speeding fines, parking tickets: why do people complain when they know they’re doing the wrong thing?
cockneyreject cockneyreject 9:59 am 15 Aug 21

Well said Zoya.

Spiral Spiral 6:01 am 13 Aug 21

“Don’t all of these people already understand the social contract we have in place, where we all benefit from a democratic and structured society in return for following the rules?”

And yet when pedestrians break those rules, doing stupid things and crossing roads unsafely we respond by penalizing the motorists.

Yes, there are plenty of bad drivers that speed and do stupid things, but in general they are not following the speed limits and lowering it won’t stop them. Catch and punish these people please.

But lowering the speed limit around town centers is generally penalizing motorists to try and protect pedestrians who are breaking the rules.

There is also the perception that the ACT government and Greens areintentionally making driving less attractive because of an ideological opposition to people driving, and being dishonest about their motivations.

    astro2 astro2 1:28 pm 15 Aug 21

    “And yet when pedestrians break those rules….we reposed by penalising the motorists” No, actually “we” don’t. Pedestrians can and have been penalised for doing the wrong thing, there are rules covering jaywalking and the can and have been enforced when necessary. As to penalised motorists, you won’t get penalised if you stick to the speed limits. This is pretty simple to understand and most people do understand.

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 2:46 pm 15 Aug 21

    “Catch and punish these people please.”
    Isn’t that exactly what they are doing, Spiral? People have exceeded the speed limit and they got fined. We don’t get to determine which speed limits we will follow.

Chris Olsen Chris Olsen 5:56 pm 12 Aug 21

What a pathetic apologist excuse. An arbitrary speed

limit reduction based on a false premise. Maybe just maybe pedestrians should take responsibility for the behaviour like not crossing at lights or against the red but no, let’s just punish drivers because their and easy target and a cash cow. The reduction in the limit in the Barton Highway and years early on William Hovell drive were allegedly to improve road safety(when the hell was the last accident on the now former 100km/h section of the BH???) , yet nobody was fore warned and the speed camera were up the next day. In fact the Gov had to apologies for putting the cameras up on WHD the day after the reduction because is was done without notice. Stop treating drivers as an easy target for $$

Zakzook Chico Zakzook Chico 5:44 pm 12 Aug 21

When there ain’t enough parking spaces, people will break the rules…that simple

    SC Cores SC Cores 8:43 am 13 Aug 21

    So Lord of the Flies…. If there isn’t something people want they will break the rules to get it… seriously? So entitled aren’t you…

Patrick Murray Patrick Murray 5:23 pm 12 Aug 21

Yes yes yes. This is exactly it. Road rules are the road rules and although you're all entitled to your opinions they're irrelevant. If you get caught breaking the law there are consequences. Remember, driving is a privilege, not a right.

Simon Kelly Simon Kelly 2:32 pm 12 Aug 21

And stop changing speed limits.

Acton Acton 12:25 pm 12 Aug 21

Societies need certain rules and laws because the alternative is anarchy. But we don’t need excessive, petty, intrusive rules. The danger is that those who meekly accept and fail to challenge the imposition of constant government restrictions and bit by bit removal of civil liberties become the same people who say, ‘But, I was only following orders’ when enforcing government mandated abuses. And we all know where that led. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Earlier Australian generations prided themselves on defending their civil rights and defied authorities at every opportunity. But now, we allow ourselves to be dictated to by a nanny state, meekly and complacently obeying whatever new rules have been imposed without questioning or understanding their need. What noise does a sheep make?

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 5:50 pm 12 Aug 21

    So, Acton, are you telling me that because I understand and accept why they changed the speed limit, I am going to be responsible for the complete and utter surrender of our democracy to corrupt demagogues hellbent on bringing us to dystopia? Wow – you know, in some perverted faustian way, it’s almost cool that I now have such power.

Anthony Cincotta Anthony Cincotta 11:28 am 12 Aug 21

Do you always know that you are doing the wrong thing. If you are a responsible and careful driver you may not be paying all your attention to the speedo of your car. You may, as a responsible driver, be watching side roads, vehicles behind and ahead, pedestrians etc. and not noticing that you have drifted a few kms over arbitrary speed limits that are there for the purpose of collecting state revenue....

Heavs Heavs 10:59 am 12 Aug 21

I like the parking component of this opinion piece. I ‘played the game’ for years – parking in 2 hours zones etc where I knew I was going to go overtime but the math played out for me. An occasional fine (maybe once every 3 months) of $110 or so opposed to paying around $10 per day was a no-brainer.

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 5:40 pm 12 Aug 21

    Heavs, I’ve heard from others who also did the math and benefited in the same way. I would have thought it’s not rocket science to see that if you take on more parking inspectors (which is an employment opportunity), they would (arguably) pay for themselves – or may be it is rocket science for the authorities

simm simm 10:55 am 12 Aug 21

Lowering CIVIC from 60kph to 40kph is as impractical as if it were 10kph.
Does not work for the majority.
The ones who thought 40kph was a good idea are just deemed wrong by the thousands..

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 5:33 pm 12 Aug 21

    Oh right, simm – because there’s some objection to the change here on RiotACT, that doesn’t mean those who argree are wrong. If that’s your argument, then you seriously overestimate your own self-importance and that of all of us hee on RiotACT.

Jay Kay Jay Kay 10:45 am 12 Aug 21

Most people are okay with copping a fine on the chin if there is a sense of 'fairness' about it.

Being done for speeding in areas that shouldn't be signposted dramatically below natural flow speed and parking fines for poorly signed and marked areas don't pass this.

Wade Bermingham Wade Bermingham 9:56 am 12 Aug 21

Parking fines sure but i dont think costing a weeks wages for concentrating on the position of my moving ton of steel and the other moving tons of steel around me insted of the constantly changing micrometer measureable position of a needle on one of the 5 gauges in front of me is a reasonable or intelligent thing

    Giles Tranter Giles Tranter 12:57 pm 12 Aug 21

    Wade Bermingham if driving is too hard for you to do properly, probably need to give up your licence

    Simon Mitchell Simon Mitchell 6:36 pm 12 Aug 21

    Wade Bermingham use cruise control…

James Strang James Strang 9:54 am 12 Aug 21

People are generally happy to follow the rules if they're well implemented. Tens of thousands of fines shows this was not the case, and still isn't.

Nick James Nick James 9:28 am 12 Aug 21

The same author says disadvantaged people shouldn’t be locked up when they commit crimes. Zero intellectual consistency.

Tony Mills-Thom Tony Mills-Thom 8:43 am 12 Aug 21

Two questions. Firstly, was there a road safety problem in the first place? Secondly, do these speed limits actually improve road safety? Where a speed limit is counter intuitive, it will not be followed, no matter how much you want it to be followed! That’s why speed limits, etc, are backed up by fines. If the speed limit was sensible, it would be followed implicitly.

    Sonia Bowditch Sonia Bowditch 8:56 am 12 Aug 21

    Agreed. The 40 zone across Northbourne Ave and into Barry Drive is stupid. It now takes ages crossing Northbourne and very few cars can get through one green light at 40 kms. Congestion.

    David Jones David Jones 9:51 am 12 Aug 21

    Yes and yes. If it's not followed, you get fined.

    This stupid, entitled attitude is exactly what's being referred to here.

    You don't get to decide which laws should apply to you. Your opinion doesn't matter. No matter what your Mummy told you

    Vic Hughes Vic Hughes 10:47 am 12 Aug 21

    David Jones So where is your evidence that road safety problem which has been improved by these speed limits. Citation needed.

    David Jones David Jones 11:04 am 12 Aug 21

    My claim? 😂 Nice try champ. The government has made the claim and the law.

    You're trying to disprove their claim, not mine. Nice try though.

    Bet you can't disprove their claim though? Just gonna have a little self entitled sulk 😂

    David Jones David Jones 11:06 am 12 Aug 21

    School zone speed limit laws literally prove the effectiveness of slower speeds. Why do you think that hasn't been challenged and changed if slowing down doesn't improve safety for pedestrians?

    David Jones David Jones 11:10 am 12 Aug 21


    David Jones David Jones 11:11 am 12 Aug 21

    Google car accidents or pedestrian deaths on Northbourne Ave and see how many things come up

    David Jones David Jones 11:13 am 12 Aug 21


    David Jones David Jones 11:14 am 12 Aug 21

    In case you wanted to question the effectiveness of reducing speed in school zones.

    I can keep going?

Ian Fitzgerald Ian Fitzgerald 8:39 am 12 Aug 21

I get it, but lowering speed limits on main roads within suburbs eg 80->70 (where it has been 80 forever) with no notice, then routinely sticking mobile cameras there is just a low blow.

Michael White Michael White 8:36 am 12 Aug 21

Literally a voluntary tax. Don’t want to pay, don’t do the thing that gets taxed.

Margus von Tihemetsa Margus von Tihemetsa 8:23 am 12 Aug 21

Just because a person in charge makes a decision doesn’t always mean it’s the right decision.

While I obey the speed limits I still think dropping them to 40km/h on Barry Drive and Northbourne Ave was not the smartest decision.

    Jon Billows Jon Billows 9:14 am 12 Aug 21

    Margus von Tihemetsa It doesn't matter if you agree with it. These are the laws.

    Vic Hughes Vic Hughes 10:42 am 12 Aug 21

    Jon Billows It's legitimate for people to object to laws, otherwise we would still have laws requiring someone carrying a red flag to walk in front of a motor vehicle. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_flag_traffic_laws

    Ryan Daniel Ryan Daniel 11:21 am 12 Aug 21

    Jon Billows are you saying people aren’t entitled to an opinion? Or just that they aren’t allowed to express it if it goes against what the government has done? Should people be sent to the gulags for questioning decisions? Seems an undemocratic attitude. By that logic the government is doing everything perfectly in terms of climate change, housing etc as well. Questioning what the government does is essentially our duty in a democracy

    Adrian King Adrian King 11:34 am 12 Aug 21

    Ryan Daniel I’m always in the gulag. Just saying 😕

    Jon Billows Jon Billows 11:35 am 12 Aug 21

    Ryan Daniel you vote for the government. You give them the power to make the laws, if you don't like them than vote them out. In the meantime if you break them, expect to be fined.

    Farg Gough Farg Gough 2:48 pm 12 Aug 21

    Margus, if you don’t like a law, rule, regulation, etc. engage your legislative representative and state your case.

    That’s what we pay them for 😉

Blen_Carmichael Blen_Carmichael 8:12 am 12 Aug 21

“Don’t all of these people already understand the social contract we have in place, where we all benefit from a democratic and structured society in return for following the rules?” Oh please.

chewy14 chewy14 8:03 am 12 Aug 21

What I’m surprised about is the amount of people that are willing to just accept what the government tells you without providing transparency as to the decision making process and evidence behind them.

I agree that we should all follow the rules and suffer the consequences if we break them (I haven’t been fined so it isn’t an issue for me) but I think we should always be willing to question and oppose government decisions that aren’t supported by evidence.

May be purely anecdotal but I’ve noticed that a significant proportion of people who say we should just agree with the government on decisions like that in the article are often vehemently opposed to other government decisions or policies (at various levels) when they personally disagree with them.

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 5:29 pm 12 Aug 21

    Hi Chewy – couldn’t resist quickly diving in :-). So tell me, what has all of your railing against this decision got you – other than a robust (and hopefully engaging) debate on here? You imply that those of us who accept the rationale behind this decision (and I explained my reasons for such acceptance) and not seeking an explanation from the government are some kind of compliant putty in the government’s hands (my words, not yours). By all means challenge me on the reasons that I accept this decision and I’ll reply (as we did for quite some time on another thread) – I honour and respect that. But please show me the same courtesy and respect my right to hold that opinion.

    chewy14 chewy14 6:14 pm 12 Aug 21

    I stopped replying on the other thread because there really was no point in continuing. I would say that in my opinion you haven’t had to deal with government’s all that much due to your faith in their processes and decision making. Particularly around your belief that it’s the experts always making these types of decisions, that they have the right information and that they aren’t tainted by political/ideological influences.

    Let’s take another much bigger debate going on this website at the moment, climate change. The federal government has many experts working and advising them in the area. So you must believe that their decisions are sound, following the expert advice to balance competing needs to benefit all Australians?

    And I don’t actually think any posts here or elsewhere would change the government’s decisions but it’s fun to debate the issues. It allows everyone to see other people’s perspectives and hopefully learn something on occasion.

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 8:30 pm 12 Aug 21

    Absolutely agree with your last paragraph 100%
    However, one thing that really annoys me about you is the fact you regularly engage in non sequitur fallacy, and have so above – because IMHO there is a rationale for the authorities lowering the speed limit and see no reason to question it and choose to believe that that particular decision came from expert advice (again, it is a choice of belief I’m happy to make because in a warped ‘end justifies the means’ way, I accept the outcome even if experts were not involved), you assume I have unquestioning faith in EVERY govt decision and I accept that that decision maker ALWAYS listens to that expert advice. You push the non sequitur fallacy even further by stating that because of the foregoing, I believe that experts provide advice to the Feds on climate change and because of that I accept the Feds action (or in reality, inaction) on combating climate change. I think you know that I am an advocate for urgent action in the climate change arena – so you end conclusion is wrong. And you followed this path because I stated that I was happy to accept the new speed limit because at 40 kph I’ve got more time to stop in the event of an idiotic foolhardy pedestrian (of which there are numerous in that precinct) walking in front of my car.
    In the words of Simone Elkeles – “Opinions are like a**holes, everyone has one but they think each others stink.“ Not quite true, because again Intotally agrre with your final paragraph.

    chewy14 chewy14 8:12 am 13 Aug 21

    If you want to talk about logical fallacies your entire support of the changed speed limit is an appeal to authority.

    You literally have admitted that you have no evidence to support the change but still believe it’s a good thing regardless because you think the “experts” have decided.

    That’s fine, it’s your opinion, but it’s still wrong.

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 9:28 am 13 Aug 21

    Ummm no, my support of the changed speed limit is not an appeal to authority … it’s actually based on the laws of physics, which I’ve already given to you that shows that a car travelling at 40 needs less distance to stop than a car travelling at 60. But rather than acknowledging or disputing my facts (because you obviously can’t) you went off into a tirade that I HAD to support your (non-existent) push to liwer the speed limit further. So instead of berating, as mindless idiots kowtowing without question to every decision of an incompetent govt, those of us, who believe the decision to change the limit is reasonable, how about you provide factual evidence that the decision is wrong? How about you provide evidence to discredit the many studies that reducing speed limits in high pedestrian traffic areas results in less fatalities / trauma? You seem to want actual deaths and/or trauma in these areas before you will accept the speed limit change. How about you provide evidence that by being risk averse and wanting to avoid potential tragedy is wrong? Just because you have no respect for the ACT govt, doesn’t mean the rest of us have to rail against every decision they make, even when we think the decision is a fair one. Links to facts please, Chewy, not just your opprobrium, as a reason for us to change.

    chewy14 chewy14 10:54 am 13 Aug 21

    Now you’re back to “simple physics” again? Really.

    So let’s make the speed limit 0km/hr. Physics says this is the safest. Why are you so opposed to road safety? The research clearly shows its safer.

    The entire point is that you would need to justify why 40km/hr is the optimal speed that balances road functionality with safety which you’ve been unable to justify except with an appeal to authority that the “experts” made the decision.

    And all I’ve asked for from the beginning of this discussion is the governments evidence to support the change. It’s up to you to provide the evidence for change in this area, not me. But you’ve already admitted that you don’t have that evidence so here we are.

    If you can’t provide such evidence for the change in this area stop replying, the discussion won’t go anywhere like the other thread. Links to the evidence or go away.

    GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 5:42 pm 13 Aug 21

    Chewy, again you use opprobrium rather than fact.
    As I said in my very first post on the matter of the speed limit being dropped from 40 kph to 60 kph and I quote “I for one am happy to sacrifice those 12 seconds, if it means I would not have to live with the consequences of accidentally killing or maiming a pedestrian (albeit because they were doing the wrong thing).” Those 12 seconds were the extra time it takes to travel that 400 metres at 40 kph instead of 60. And I was happy with that because at the lower speed I would travel 19 m less distance if I had to perform an emergency stop. Facts you didn’t dispute.
    Please note the continual use of the pronoun “I”. Now you decided that I was not allowed to accept the government’s decision for the reason I outlined, because YOU don’t like it. Consequently I have to justify to YOU, MY reason for accepting it. You say “all I’ve asked for from the beginning of this discussion is the governments evidence to support the change” but that’s not true – you have demanded that I provide said evidence – “If you can’t provide such evidence for the change in this area …”. Why? So you can then let me have my opinion?
    On another thread you posted “… it’s fun to debate the issues. It allows everyone to see other people’s perspectives and hopefully learn something on occasion.” Debate is about challenging other’s opinion – but not their right to hold them.
    You don’t see or respect other’s opinions unless they accord with yours. So, no I am not going to continue to respond, but also, no, I will not change my acceptance of the decision to lower that limit.

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