In 1998 almost 69 percent of offenders paid the fine for their infringements in Tallinn, then in 1999 the percentage was 25 percent. The number of fines almost doubled from 56,000 in 1998 to 100,000 in 1999.
"There are many reasons for the present disorder," said Vello Koonik, head of the Tallinn Traffic Management Center. "When the parking law was in force, everything worked well. According to that law the penalty doubled when it was not paid by the due date. All transactions with the car were blocked by the car registration center until the bill was paid. Now the fine expires in three months in the event that we haven't been able to sue for the fine," said Koonik.
He said this case is tied to a lot of juridical details that are difficult to explain. "When the parking law was abolished, some paragraphs regulating parking were included in the traffic law and some in the administrative law. This process proceeded so fast that it was not thought out properly," said Koonik.
"The problem is also to be found in the terminology. Fines written out by police are called a 'pronouncement.' A pronouncement should be executed, otherwise it will be enforced by the court. A fine written out by a traffic controller is called a 'claim.' A claim is not mentioned in the regulations."
There are 21 hardworking traffic controllers in Tallinn and their number is consantly increasing, Koonik said.
The city of Tallinn missed out on fines worth millions of kroons last year. Out of the total of 38 million-kroon ($2.6 million) penalty sum, only 9.5 million kroons were paid in 1999. The respective figures in 1998 were 13.7 million kroons and 9.4 million kroons.
In spite of difficulties with payment, the transport department is planning to raise the cost of parking in the Old Town of Tallinn in order to decrease the number of cars on the streets. At present, parking costs 3 kroons per 15 minutes in the center of Tallinn and twice as much in Tallinn's Old Town.