Can money, GPS info be paired to decrease speeding, car accidents?

How many times have you driven through Birmingham and seen a large sign that flashed your current speed in lights? For years, traffic safety experts thought that if drivers were made aware of their speeding, that it would encourage them to slow down and follow the speed limit. They were wrong.

Then, safety experts installed hidden cameras on several major roads. They theorized that if drivers didn’t know when they were being watched, that they would always drive slower. That didn’t work either.

There have been a few other initiatives, but so far, nothing seems to work effectively at encouraging drivers to slow down. Now, traffic safety experts have a new idea that they think will encourage drivers to follow the speed limit and avoid car accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently completed a study that showed drivers slowed down dramatically when they were promised a $25 reward at the end of each week they drove safely.

To measure how safe drivers were, cars were installed with GPS devices that measured the cars’ current speed against the posted speed limits. When cars exceeded the speed limit by 5mph or more, money was taken out of their weekly prize.

One of the researchers described the system as “incredibly effective” in getting drivers to reduce their speeding. Moreover, egregious speed limit violations were almost eliminated.

The new system may be effective, but it’s not plausible for the government to pay people for following the law. Is there a way to change the system without compromising its effectiveness?

Source: npr, “GPS Study Shows Drivers Will Slow Down, At A Cost,” Shanikar Vedantam, June 21, 2012

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