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The Speed Lottery. It’s a Fun Idea, But Is It a Good One?

9:21 AM PST on December 3, 2010

Would drivers be more likely to follow speed laws if there were a chance they could win a cash prize for doing so?  That is the question posed by Kevin Richardson in a video posted to You Tube as part of the "Fun Theory."  The idea?  Set up cameras and speed sensors.  If you speed, you get a fine.  If you don't, you're randomly entered into a drawing to win the fine paid by someone else.

When I heard about this idea, my first thought was that while Richardson was on the right track; I would enter the people who live near the monitored street in the lottery instead of safe drivers.  That way the people that often pay the non-fiduciary price of speeding traffic, with their lives or their property, would be the ones who profit.

Then I saw the video and was convinced that combining a carrot and stick might be the quickest way to slow down drivers.  Before the experiment the average speed on the monitored street was 32 kilometers per hour, during the experiment, it dropped nearly 30% to 25 k.p.h.

Obviously, such a program would require some changes to state and federal law, and is no replacement for streets that are engineered to keep traffic moving slowly, but if it actually slows down traffic this idea might move from "fun" to "practical."

H/T Planetizen

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