World’s Second Youngest Billionaire Walks Away with a Hefty Drunk Driving Fine
It was Easter weekend 2017 and Katharina Andresen, 22, a student of Amsterdam University College, was on her way to her family’s chalet in the resort town of Hefjell, Norway. She was pulled over and failed a roadside breathalyzer. An hour later, she blew a 0.06% BAC. Most US states require a BAC at or above 0.08% to be considered as a DUI (driving under the influence) or DWI (driving while intoxicated) per se. As Katharina stated Friday at her hearing, “I thought I had waited long enough not to be over the limit any more. I am very sorry.”
Norway’s drunk driving laws are tough—really tough. In Norway, a BAC of 0.02% gets you arrested for drunk driving with penalties equal to a month’s salary and your license suspended for one year. If your BAC tops 0.15% or higher, expect to be shelling out one and a half month’s salary, spending at least 21 days in prison, and a suspended license for 2 years. Your financial penalty is all based on your income and penalties range from 100-150% of your monthly income although judges can use some discretion in determining your actual financial situation.
Katharina and her sister, Alexandra, are the youngest billionaires in the world after their father, Johan Andresen, provided them with 42% each of the family investment firm, Ferd, in 2007. With Katherina’s net worth set at $1.23 billion, a monthly income assessment could’ve run into some serious money. Since Katharina is a student, the judge looked at her “real financial position” of having no fixed income and fined her 250,000 Norwegian Krone or $30,142. Katharina was also given a suspended sentence of 3 weeks in prison and a 13 month suspended license. For Norway, it was lienency as she could’ve faced a fine of 40 million Krone or $4,822,764 plus probation and the suspended license.
The strict laws in Norway have not lessened drinking habits but have caused cultural changes. People who drink are more likely to call a taxi or designate a driver rather than risk some of the most severe penalties in Europe. Annually, 250 people are killed and 13,000 injured as a result of drunk driving in Norway. As a percentage of the population, this number equates to 0.005% death rate from drunk driving.
In comparison, in the US, the death toll attributed to drunk driving is 10,497 annually or 0.003% of the population. This rate equates to a death every 50 minutes or 29 people per day. The estimated costs of drunk driving in the US were last calculated in 2010 and stood then at $44 billion annually but of course now would be much higher. 28% of all US traffic fatalities are related to alcohol impaired driving and approximately 10% or 1,233 of these deaths involve children 14 years old or younger. In a positive direction, deaths due to drunk driving have decreased in the US by a third in the last three decades from 18,000 annually in 1982 to the current level.
Should we adopt a more financially punitive system toward drunk driving? The US has changed its social attitudes regarding drunk driving since MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) and similar groups made it their cause. Is that enough? Would instituting a salary based system help to reduce fatalities, injuries, and overall costs to society or not? We’re eager to hear what you think is the best plan to reduce drunk driving: increasing penalties, encouraging social change like designated drivers, or something else entirely? Like and let us hear your thoughts below!