Should Drivers Be Charged A Fee-Per-Mile?


Should drivers be charged a fee for the miles they drive? A controversial tax proposal in the Netherlands calls for just such, with miles measured via a meter placed in drivers’ cars. European cities and governments in Asia (Singapore) and the US (Oregon, Texas and Minnesota) — all eager to reduce traffic congestion and its ills — are watching the Netherlands’ trial of the technology with interest. But the in-car meters raise a host of concerns about privacy and the monitoring of where people drive, as well as amounting to a new type of tax.

Some Dutch drivers are participating in a trial of the proposal by having their cars outfitted with a meter that displays the charges for driving every minute, just like the meter in a taxi. The meters record charges for each car trip using a “mileage-based formula that also takes account of a carís fuel efficiency, the time of day and the route,” says the†New York Times. The meters, which are hooked up to the Internet wirelessly †and to GPS, also take into account the cost to society in the form of pollution, traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and where one is driving, with charges higher if you’re using well-traveled roads. At the end of the month, drivers would receive an itemized bill of charges, like a cell phone bill. (The participants in the trial run of the devices were not charged.)

The Netherlands, whose residents have the highest commuting times in Europe and who have been in favor of a number of environment innovations had planned to create a nationwide system next year with rates varying from 4.5 to 45 cents a mile. But things stalled with a change of government in 2010; the new party in power said it would not raise taxes.

A†proposal in Oregon would record miles driven using an odometer, an earlier proposal that called for using GPS on the devices having met with public outcry.

Supporters of the meters point out that using the meters actually provides for a “more equitable” system than taxes currently †in place for the purchase of a car and registration fees. The meters, and the taxes people would pay for their driving, measure how much a person drives and not only ownership: Use your car more and you pay for it:

If imposed, [the charges from the car meters] could supplant gas and vehicle taxes as well as tolls. Governments could program† computers to require consistent gas guzzlers to pay higher rates, for example.

Distance charging also provides a means of replacing declining revenues from gasoline taxes as more people drive highly efficient, hybrid or†electric cars, helping governments that have traditionally depended on gas taxes for road upkeep.

As the†New York Times observes, and as I can imagine, simply having the meter in your car has a psychological effect. When you see the miles, and the fees, racking up, you may well realize that you need to make some changes in commuting habits, i.e., by not taking the car as much and walking or taking public transportation.

Do such meters mean that “Big Brother” is now watching your every move behind the wheel? Or do the benefits of the taxes charged and the good effects of people driving less on the environment outweigh concerns about privacy?

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Transportation is a Civil Right


Photo by wfbakker2


Jane R.
Jane R.5 years ago

Totaly stupid idea. We already pay too much tax for everything!

Ann G.
Ann G.5 years ago

No Quick Poll? This one would be really interesting to see. I think that this is a great idea. Although there is the potential for abuses, this is just too good to pass up, and the benefits outweigh the risks.

Bridget M.
Past Member 5 years ago

Hysterical, Diane. These stories give me some perspective. Thankfully, I'm not so impaired that drive-thrus, overpasses or water are an issue for me.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago

And how much will this thing cost and who will pay for it?
Some years back, Swedish diesel vehicles had a "kilometer counter". The more you drove, the more you payed in taxes. This was discontinued because of some counters were unreliable. Instead the annual vehicle tax of a diesel vehicle are way higher than with a gas guzzler! Bear in mind that most European countries have huge energy taxes (some about 80% of the price per liter) and that diesel cars, buses and trucks are way more fuel effective than gasoline ones Hope the Dutch cancels this stupid project and use the money to invest in non-fossil fuel alternatives instead, like CNG.

Diane L.
Diane L.5 years ago

Aaah, Bridget, I'm sorry. Some people have no "sense of direction" and my ex-husband (actually most men) don't. My former fiancee got lost once in a bank drive-thru line on a Saturday. I'm not kidding. I wouldn't use GPS, don't trust it, and don't need it. I had to laugh when I saw the news the other night about a couple of women tourists who rented a car with GPS and ended up in a lake because the GPS told them to go on that road. They didn't even LOOK at where they were going, just responded "blindly" to the instructions being given. I've seen trucks stuck under too LOW overpasses and worse, cars going off unfinished freeway ramps, etc. My grandson has a 4G phone and the GPS is always behind where he actually is.

Bridget M.
Past Member 5 years ago

Diane L. I've done all you've suggested and then some, but my mishaps are legendary. Perhaps if the gov't taxed people like me for going the wrong way, we could resolve some of our budget issues. But that just seems cruel.

Tom Sullivan
Tom C Sullivan5 years ago

Go figure, so how many miles does the goverment travel?

Will Rogers
Will Rogers5 years ago

Looks like yet another way for the government to get people's hard earned money. Maybe it should be based on income. So that way the working classes will not have to pay the same as politicians and other ruling classes.

Diane L.
Diane L.5 years ago

Bridget, what is GPS? Just kidding, but what ever happened to picking up a phone and calling the destination for directions, and/or learning how to get a map on the computer? They usually work better.

My grandson and his wife have GPS on their 4-G phones. It's always about a minute behind the actual location of where he is. It's been laughable how many people drive off a pier, into the lake because they follow the GPS in their car, rathr than actually look at the road.

I think the premise here is that when we license our cars, maybe we would have to have the odomoter read and pay a tax accordingly? I am not sure about that, either, but I do think insurance rates should be more variable, based on actual mileage, not just a break at 10,000 or 12,000 miles MORE or less.

Bridget M.
Past Member 5 years ago

Let's see. I live below the poverty line whatever that means these days. That's okay. I live in a state with one of the highest levels of taxes on gas. Paying for gas is about as much fun as herniating a disc. My internal GPS is broken so I occasionally put additional carbon into the environment because I am directionally impaired. My mechanic cannot fix this problem. The doctor can't either. I hope the government won't tax me for driving around unfamiliar terrain, screaming within the confines of my car, trying to navigate to my destination. I'll only scream louder if I have to pay more for the experience.