Making the Better Speed Camera

12/07/2010 @ 2:36 pm, by Jensen Beeler8 COMMENTS

What gets rewarded, gets done. That’s a concept I learned on my first day of business school (big shout out to Dr. Denny Gioia). While we were being taught in the context of managing a workforce, it applies just as easily to people in general, for example in a government’s influence over its citizenry. This point was clearly not lost on Kevin Richardson, an American who answered Volkswagen’s call to build a better speed camera for traffic enforcement.

A part of Volkwagen’s Fun Theory experiments, Richardson designed, built, and implemented a sort of speed camera lottery. Ticketing motorists it catches speeding, Richardson’s speed camera also rewards people who comply with the posted speed limit, entering law abiding citizens into a lottery whose pot consists of a portion of the fines collected by speeders caught on the camera. Brilliant! But does it work?

Over three days on a Swedish road, 24,857 cars passed through Richardson’s experimental speed camera. With the normal flow of traffic measured at 32km/h, the pace of vehicles was reduced by 22% after the program was initiated, with speeds through the same stretch of road down to a legal 25 km/h. There’s no word if the program paid out a winner from its time being implemented, nor what that pay-out might look like, but we imagine balancing the proper reward, for essentially abiding by the law, is something that would be tweaked over time. When you consider how ineffective speed cameras normally are at slowing motorists (along with other enforcement methods), a 22% reduction in this experiment is a very noteworthy result.

The really interesting thing from Richardson’s idea┬áis that there’s some tangible evidence now that law enforcement, especially for basic traffic offenses, can be enforced with positive reinforcement rather than negative punishment (i.e. traffic fines, penalty checkpoints, etc). In our never-ending quest to help governmental agencies better tackle issues in motorcycling, the NHTSA might want to try thinking outside the box a bit on their current policy of motorcycle-only safety checkpoints, which are being implemented under the guise of promoting motorcycle safety. You’ve tried the whip, maybe it’s time to try the carrot guys.

Source: The Fun Theory via Autoblog

  • Sean in Oz

    A 3 day trial is completely meaningless. The effectiveness of such as system could only be measured over a long period of time. Unless the lottery pay out is LARGE or everyone gets a payout regularly driver behaviour will return to normal.

  • Graham

    Wow, definitely a novel concept, rewarding people for good driving. The politicians and bureaucrats in Australia would never understand though, the idea of giving back some of the revenue they make from speed cameras would horrify them. For example the state of Victoria earned $437 million from speed cameras last financial year :| The effect of speed cameras here is so strong that any fixed installation is like an electronic speed hump screwing up the traffic flow, and it seems that people are starting to believe that if you travel at or under the speed limit you must be a safe driver/rider.

  • Jim

    Since the purpose of speed and red light cameras is revenue enhancement rather than safety, why would government want to share the booty?

  • Having now paid $200 in caught on camera fines I love this idea.

  • Johndo

    Great idea. I don’t think people would go back to old habits. Do people stop buying lottery tickets after not winning a few times? No they continue always hoping the next time will be the good one.

    If going 5km/h less give you a chance of winning something, I think 90% of people will slow down. It’s human nature, give a positive reward and people will listen.

  • Other Sean

    Indeed, the point of speeding tickets as Jim said, is to build revenue, the safety claim is a convenient smoke screen.

    And Sean in Oz took the words out of my mouth about behavior returning to normal…the chances of winning the lottery are so remote, I’d rather speed!

  • Johndo

    Well in Canada lottery is done by the government and although they give back millions $ to winners, they still make hundreds of millions in profits every year…so the argument of not being profitable if you give back some simply is not the reality.

  • patron

    A good idea. But a 3 day test? People may have been slowing down to read the new sign that was just put up.