Making the Better Speed Camera

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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 is 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