Instead Of Bad Drivers, What If Speed Cameras 'Caught' Good Drivers Instead?

from the carrot-or-the-stick dept

We’ve written at length here about the multitude of problems with speed cameras. What if, instead of focusing on punishing speeders, the speed cameras were used to reward good behavior? Drivers who obey the speed limit are automatically entered into a lottery and then notified by mail if they’ve won. So, you might pick up your mail one day with a letter from local law enforcement and a check for good driving behavior, rather than a fine for bad driving behavior. This is somewhat reminiscent of the idea from a few years ago where police would pull over good drivers and “reward” them with free coffee coupons — but avoids the whole “pull over” part, which certainly upset some drivers.

The idea is that the jackpot could come from the fines that were paid from speeders — so not only do you get rewarded, you get rewarded from the pockets of worse drivers. This method may also serve to make a speeding ticket feel even more painful than just a fine alone. After all, a $500 ticket definitely stings, but a $500 ticket PLUS a little note that had you not been speeding, you could have won $10,000 instead? Ouch, that hurts a lot more.

The idea was the winning entry to VW’s “The Fun Theory” competition, where applicants were tasked to design ways to change people’s behavior through fun. This is a brilliantly viral campaign that showcases the fact that advertising is content, and if you make engaging content, people will beat a path to your door to watch it. The “piano stairs” entry alone has amassed over 12 million views.

Of course, rewarding good drivers with cash awards does not help governments rake in quite as much in revenue, but speed cameras are supposed to be about safety and not money, right?

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Comments on “Instead Of Bad Drivers, What If Speed Cameras 'Caught' Good Drivers Instead?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

what if santa claus was a squeege kid for the rest of the year? what is your car would send you a shock and call your mother every time you went over the speed limit? what if you could redefine scarce and infinite to suit your own needs? what is you could ignore 2nd and 3rd years of your mba and still graduate? all these mysteries and more right here on techdirt.

bob says:

Not Gona Be Done

Anything that takes traffic fine monies from the general coffers to give to “good Drivers” of a locality will never happen. At the states level the “Vig” is put into the general fund and would also not be used.
Just like monies from lotteries were to be used for education, that find there way into the general fund, no added ticket premium cost would stay outside the general fund for very long.
Never ever trust a politician with money.

Anonymous Coward says:

How About We Back Off the Bg Brother Crap Altogether

Speed cameras and fines for speeding are largely BS since cops, judges and politicians (and their families) can get out traffic penalties. That’s right if you’re in the club you’re safe. Drive as fast as you want. Police even have medalions for their plates that say “don’t event pull me over”. The rest of us have to pay the fines and higher insurance whenever the local municipality decides to set up some selective enforcement (AKA fundraiser).

To make matters worse the posted speed limits are ridiculously under what even cautious drivers are comfortable with. And this is the LIMIT mind you. That means that you’re allowed to drive at any slower speed up to and including the posted number. Get some friends and do 55 MPH side by side on a major highway. You’ll piss off a lot of people. This unrealistic situation will continue to exist as long as the group of people who make and enforce these laws are exempt from them.

Mr. Ambiguous says:

Re: How About We Back Off the Bg Brother Crap Altogether

“Get some friends and do 55 MPH side by side on a major highway. You’ll piss off a lot of people.”

I seem to remember a video of this from a few years back. A few friends with video cameras got on a highway, lined up, and did 55 mph. They caused the entire highway behind them to back up and become a mess. At one point in the video, someone close to the front of the whole mess sped into the shoulder to pass them and almost nailed someone who had pulled off into the shoulder. I wish I could find that video.

TW Burger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Filler piece

Come on. Have some respect for Mike. Your being an arm chair editor. Write your own blog and come up with material everyday.

This might happen. I was on a TV show discussing future development of the web. The interview before me was with a guy who was describing something called a “blog”. It was Dave Winer (Dotto’s Data Cafe Sunday, May 19, 2002). He thought it was the next big thing (it was). I thought it sounded silly (You fool!). Lesson: Dismiss ideas at your own peril.

I do get a 50% discount on my insurance but I admit it would be more effective to have more active and short term incentives for good behavior.

Mine’s zero in 25 years and three in my life.

TW Burger (profile) says:

This is already being done

Most trucking companies have been rewarding the good drivers for several years now. On-board GPS and speed monitoring systems constantly record where and what is going on when a truck is on the road. If a driver does not speed she/he will get a bonus. Drivers that speed (even once) do not. Drivers that consistently speed are fired.

The idea works well. I would love a system that monitored my driving and gave me a large refund.

“Of course, rewarding good drivers with cash awards does not help governments rake in quite as much in revenue, but speed cameras are supposed to be about safety and not money, right?”

Well, with over 30,000 killed per year in the USA and crashes costing $230 billion (2000 estimate) not to mention lost wages and taxes from wages and spending the government would probably have more revenues by having good behavior incentives. This could probably go even further. I was always ticked off as a working class kid that really rotten some juvenile delinquents were sent, on tax payers’ money, to these fantastic remote Rocky Mountain camps with and given a horse to ride and care for while spending a month on the high trails. I, as a well behaved kid, spent summer riding my bike around the local lumber mill while my dad worked his ass off in a factory earning the tax dollars to send the other kid to camp.

There’s a lot of good argument in setting up a reward system for good behavior while providing no reward for bad. It’s exactly how I used to handle guard dogs. Never punish or hit a dog, but always reward correct behavior. It works.

TW Burger (profile) says:

Re: This is already being done

I just wanted to add that I realize that not every kid can be sent to a high end camp on tax money and the idea of sending troubled teens to a remote location and giving them responsibility is an effective behavior modification therapy that can be far cheaper than paying for incarceration.

Also, sorry about the grammatical errors.

Anonymous Coward says:

this will never work, the people that make the speed cameras make money off of ticket fines, it’s a scam. It’s nothing to do with making roads safer or enforcing traffic laws. It’s all about exploiting money from decent citizens. Police never reward good behavior, they are out to punish people and trying to exploit their authority.

Haywood (profile) says:

I'm going to differ with a point there

“The idea is that the jackpot could come from the fines that were paid from speeders — so not only do you get rewarded, you get rewarded from the pockets of worse drivers.”

The idea that someone breaking a law based on an arbitrary number is somehow a worse driver than someone who obeys that law sets poorly with me. If speed limits were set by engineers rather than politicians, I might have some respect. If those laws were about traffic safety as opposed to making money, I might have some respect.

Anonymous Coward says:

Another speed camera ticket, Dennis?

No it won’t work. The reason being due to the law of secondary consequences.

The role of Government is to enforce, not incent you for following the law.

You say that the way the program would work is if someone real smart (frankly smarter than you, Dennis) figured out how to pass a referendum that required that a percentage of revenue collected by red light cameras was put into a type of lottery system for good drivers.

Seems like a good idea on the surface, but let’s dig a little deeper. First, if this occurred, it would undoubtedly raise privacy issues. How would you like it if the Government took efforts to capture every road you took to get sloshed on the weekend? If it’s collected by the Government, it’s open to a FOIA request.

Collection of such data opens itself up to abuse. As the lottery novelty wears off, it’s safe to assume that the lottery concept as you (or that really smarter person than you) originally envisioned, won’t stay in it’s original form for more a few years; maybe ten years tops. Eventually the program will cost too much, and there will be a need to find a way to monetize it. At this point, maybe some super smart 28 year old with an MBA wearing a cape at an insurance company will come up with a way to identify drivers that are on the road after 10:00 are less safe drivers, and the insurance company should increase their premiums; but again using this data which would be available under FOIA.

Next, consider other potential for abuse of the collected data. We read that when Sprint made available device location information, some 6,000,000 requests for information were made by law enforcement agencies within the first few months of it’s launch. A system that collects this type of data would perhaps be abused in one form or another.

Indeed, such a system in time would allow an officer to pull you over and and ask why you aren’t taking your normal route home.

It’s a bad idea, Dennis. Mike, can you please keep morons like Dennis to the ‘anonymous coward’ peanut gallery crowd? I have more fun when he whines and deletes my comments.

Otherwise, in the words of Keith Olbermann, Check, Please.

Anonymous Coward says:

I recall a story from the Book of Heroic Failures (or one of it’s sequels) that was similar to this. I think it was a sub-continent nation where driving skills were lacking. Unfortunately, a large number of drivers who the police attempted to pull over to reward for safe driving instead tried to evade the police, by speeding or driving through red lights, and the police then had to fine them instead.

Darryl says:

no incentives needed to be honest or law abiding

So your trying to create an incentive for NOT breaking the law, as opposed to a disincentive for breaking the law.

Most people DO NOT NEED an incentive for not breaking the law, they do not need to change of a prize for being good, or not breaking the law.

Now there are far more people who obey the laws than there are who disobey them.

That means its far easier to find those who break the law, (the small number) than it is to find the majority that do not break the law.

What if you do not break a law, and you dont win any money (are not bribed to be good), you might say screw this, im getting nowhere being good. I might as well break the law!

So I guess, you would rather see police resources, your tax money, going into the police spending all their time finding the people who DID NOT BREAK THE LAW..

I guess that would be somewhat easier 🙂 except that that is MOST of the population.

we have had speed cameras and red light camera here in Australia for years and years, no problems they are just what they are. Its really very very simple, dont break the law and you can live your entire life and not ever have to worry about police technology, or the police doing their job, which is catching the bad guys..

Not chasing after the good guys, to reward them for doing what everyone is expected to do anyway..

that is obey the law. is it THAT hard ?

Darryl says:

Police are payed by US to catch bad guys, our reward is a stable society, and not lawlessness.

Just possibly, may be governments and states use the tax payers money to employ a police force at great expense TO FIND THE LAW BREAKERS, and uphold the law.

thats why taxpayers agree to pay taxes for the police, and for the government to create laws and rules that allow people to get along as a society.

Most people (except Mike) would think that is their job, we pay them to keep badies from killing us, stealing from us, or hurting us in some way that is against the law.

Police are expensive, and most tax payers are honest and law abiding, most of those people will not be happy to see the police not doing the job they are paid to do, that is keep social order.

And as most of the law abiders will never see any prizes for being good, how can you make that system fair, or unbiased. Will we end up with “good courts”, where two people try to prove how good they are to get their reward.

Rewarding people for doing the right thing, and for being law abiding citizens, will only achieve bad feelings from the rest of society that are honest, law abiding but do not receive any prize.

As for the law breakers, they will love it, all the police spending their time and resources in finding people NOT breaking the law (much easier to do BTW).

And not employing those resources in finding the people who are breaking the law.

I can imagine it, police man pulls over good driver to give a prize, while 10 speeding cars zoom by.

Also, here in Australia, (a well advanced country) we had a good driver reward system, heavily promoted, but a total failure. It just does not work.

What they found, is that police are very good at being police, at upholding the law, and catching the bad guys.

We pay them alot of our money do be police, we dont pay them to run a ‘good lotto’. They are not trained, skilled, or willing to do that job. They joined the police force to catch badies, and to shoot people.

Not be Mr Nice Guy, but to do their job. (not another job).

Doing their job does not mean them putting on the uniform and doing some other job, (like prize giver), they find criminals, thats hard to do.

They do not find honest people, thats easy, as most are honest.

I dont need to be rewarded for doing the right thing, or obeying the law. Most if not all people do not need rewarding over the rewards we allready have.

That is not living in a lawless society, that is my reward for being honest, and obeying the law, that is everyones reward and prize.

Its a system that has worked throughout history, these other schemes have been tried and failed in the past. And its clear (from above) why it fails.

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Sorry, but I honestly find this to be a horrifying idea. Why on Earth would anyone suggest, even in jest, rewarding people for doing something that they should simply be doing anyway as an honest person? Honesty, decency and morality should be their own reward.”

Why is it you equate obeying an arbitratily set speed limit with honesty, decency and morality? I consider myself an honest, decent and moral person, but I usually drive between 5 and 10 mph over the posted speed limit. You know why? Because the speed limit A) is set artificially low to encourage speeding so police departments can generate more revenue, and B) has to be applied to everyone from 80 year old geriactrics behind the wheel of a 40 ft motorhome to semi trucks with double tanker trailers.

I’m fully capable of driving at a higher speed than the posted speed limit in a safe manner, and have done so for nearly 20 years. An 80 year old in a motorhome probably isn’t. When I’m 80 and behind the wheel of a 900 sq ft behemoth, I’ll stay within the speed limit.

So please spare me your moral indignation. If you want to obey the letter of every law, have at it. But don’t be so quick to judge those of us who obey the spirit of the law.

Thank you.

Bill Young (profile) says:


I’m all for poking fun and the stupid jerks who risk getting innocent people killed though their reckless driving habits,but let’s not lose sight of the seriousness of this issue. Traffic laws exist to protect the public safety and any mechanism available to better provide deterrence to that recklessness needs to be exploited. Only when driver KNOW they will be caught will they finally change their habits.

branden884 (profile) says:

We unfortunately live in a day and age where distracted and aggressive driving is rampant. I don’t think a reward program would have much influence on the very drivers who are prone to red light running and speeding. Nobody likes to get a ticket but placing red-light enforcement cameras at intersections that have increased danger for collisions has been shown in many communities to be a valuable pro-safety tool.

James says:

Pretty funny actually! Not sure how I would feel if I got pulled over only to get a free coffee coupon….not sure the free coffee is worth “that feeling” you get when being pulled over.

I do however disagree that this is all about money. If a piece of equipment is put in place to catch bad drivers and hopefully teach them a lesson by penalizing them, isn’t that creating a safer environment? That is if people actually learn their lesson.

Matt says:

Not a bad idea but...

I think that is a very good idea. Rewarding people who are good drivers (who let’s face it, basicaly get s**t on and have to deal with all the bad ones) However, it would be pretty hard to impliment. Instead, I believe we need to raise the standards and requirements for obtaining a dirvers license. Then, we can impliment a system where the speed limit is based not only on the road, but the conditions of the road and the skill of the driver. (But I admit that would also be hard to impliment) But I think it would be more worth while. That way, we keep idiots off the street (by increasing standards) and we also reward good driving by allowing good drivers to drive a little bit faster 🙂

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