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Merel van Rooy reconstructed how the Mulder Traffic Fine Act, which was introduced in the 1990s to deal with minor traffic violations quickly and efficiently, has escalated into a system that financially ruins families.

Last week, our editorial staff published an article about the dire situation of more than 100.000 children growing up in families with debts due to traffic fines. This article, based on answers to parliamentary questions and the revelations in Merel van Rooy's book “De Boetefabriek”, caused a storm of reactions from readers who were shocked by the scale and severity of the problem.

Merel van Rooy reveals in her book “De Boetefabriek” how the traffic fine policy of the 1990s, initially intended to handle minor traffic violations quickly and easily, has escalated into a system that has plunged tens of thousands of people deeply into debt and wrongfully behind bars. has put. This system shows shocking similarities with the recent benefits affair, in which many citizens have also been unfairly hit hard.

Van Rooy, a political economist and civil servant at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate, became involved in the investigation into the traffic fine policy during her maternity leave in April 2023. The reason was a book about the benefits affair, received from her colleagues, which hinted at abuses. in traffic fine policy. This aroused her curiosity, especially after she heard that her neighbor was involved as a civil servant in the introduction of the traffic fine law in the XNUMXs. What started as a personal interest quickly led to an in-depth investigation into the law and its effects.

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During her leave and holidays, Van Rooy delved into political and legal documents. “I went from one surprise to another,” says Van Rooy an article in the NRC. Her findings reveal a system that financially ruins people and wrongfully imprisons them. What was originally intended to deal with minor traffic violations has become a system that plunges people into a spiral of debt and legal problems.

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Her book was presented to SP MP Michiel van Nispen. Van Nispen, chairman of the Fraud Policy and Services Inquiry Committee, has conducted intensive research in recent years into the extreme fraud policy that led to the benefits affair.

Van Rooy sees clear parallels between the surcharge affair and the traffic fine policy. Between 2011 and 2014, people were actually sent to prison for almost 37.000 traffic fines. Van Rooy notes that the Ministry of Justice does not have exact data on the total number of people involved, but it must be tens of thousands of people given the 25-year period in which these hostage situations took place.

Recently there was an answer to parliamentary questions on this subject. The Minister of Justice and Security, Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius, and the Minister for Legal Protection, Franc Weerwind, emphasize that it is crucial for safety that road users adhere to the rules and that effective enforcement of these rules is essential. They emphasize that traffic fines must be collected quickly and securely. According to them, approximately 8,4 million traffic fines were issued in the past year, of which 84% were paid on time. “For people who have difficulty paying their traffic fines, it is important that there are sufficient options for payment arrangements that are offered in an accessible manner and are actually used,” the ministers said.

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However, Van Rooy states that the financial incentive has become all-consuming over the years. “In addition to the emotional and mental damage, it ultimately also turned out to be financial mismanagement,” she explains. According to the latest figures, there are more than 123 thousand households with problematic debts, including an outstanding 'Mulder fine'. “If those people receive debt assistance, the municipality will be responsible for a debt that arose because the central government wanted to gain money from reminders.”

This situation raises questions about the proportionality and fairness of the traffic fine system. It is clear that structural changes are needed to prevent citizens from being unnecessarily severely affected by a system that was originally intended to punish minor violations.

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