Getting People to Change their Driving Habits

Following yesterday’s post about exploring fresh ways to address traffic safety culture, a colleague shared a link to an excellent blog called “Mobilizing the Region”   At this site (http://blog.tstc.org/2014/01/14/better-safety-education-campaigns-could-reduce-traffic-fatalities-in-the-united-states/) there’s a great article comparing the typical USA-based Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for traffic safety to those used elsewhere in the world.

Many of the US-based ads send a message of “DON’T GET CAUGHT“, implying that the unlawful, ill-advised behaviors and habits are fully expected and normal — just avoid detection and it’s OK.  Worse, some speeding PSAs send a message that speeding is OK, just expensive (if you can afford the fines, you’re somehow justified in speeding).

This past year a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences conducted seven experiments. Two of them measured the behavior of drivers at four-way intersections and at crosswalks.  Conclusions?

  • “Drivers of more expensive cars are more likely to cut off other drivers and violate pedestrians’ right of way.” and
  • “Upper-class individuals’ relative independence from others and increased privacy in their professions may provide fewer structural constraints and decreased perceptions of risk associated with committing unethical acts.”

This seems to reinforce the PSAs who suggest the only reason to drive at or under the speed limit is if you can’t afford to pay the fine, but if you can afford it, set your own limit based on your wallet’s contents.

A recent article in Wall Street Journal “Should Wealthy Drivers Be Fined More for Speeding?” (January 12, 2014) discusses the emerging trend in Europe to base traffic safety fines on the net worth of the individual in order to curb reckless and aggressive driving habits.  The article suggests that “For a multimillionaire, a $100 speeding fine is simply a small price to pay for saving time on the road.” therefore, a rich Ferrari driver with a history of violations in Switzerland was recently given a $290,000 ticket–a world record. The article continues “Such fines, pegged to wealth, are becoming increasingly common in Europe. Germany, France, Austria and the Nordic countries are issuing higher speeding fines for wealthier drivers. In Germany, the maximum fine could be $16 million.

Do you think increasing fines (tied to personal worth) are feasible in the USA?  Would this approach make any difference or only confirm that driver safety culture can be bought at a price?  

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