Study finds paying people to not speed works better than tickets

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Police officer with radar gun

Cops with radar guns may not be as effective at reducing speeding as paying people not to speed. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

In the eternal debate over the carrot or the stick, it turns out that sometimes the carrot is much better. A recent study found that paying drivers not to speed works better at reducing speeding infractions than the threat of tickets.

Positive incentives

Incentives generally are either positive or negative, or in other words, people are motivated to do something either by hope for reward or trying to avoid punishment. Debate is likely to be eternal as to which is more effective, but some evidence suggests that cutting down on speeding is more easily accomplished with positive incentives. Drivers, in other words, will speed less if they’re paid not to.

In fact, a recent study, according to Inside Line, found exactly that.

NHTSA backed study

The study, according to NPR, was partially funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The test, according to Inside Line, used 50 subjects, all of whom had a GPS device  in test cars displaying their speed. Of those 50, 40 received audio and visual prompts to slow down if speeding; 10 weren’t given prompts, serving as the control group.

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The test took 4 weeks, according to the study abstract on Sage Journals, with all 50 subjects driving an assigned car. The first and fourth week had no prompts to not speed. Out of the 40 who received prompts, 20 were alerted to a $25 bonus they would receive every week if they didn’t speed, according to NPR. They were also told 3 cents would be deducted each time they exceeded the speed limit by fewer than 9 miles per hour and 6 cents every time they exceeded 9 miles per hour more than the speed limit.

The test found modest reductions, according to the abstract, in the 20 drivers who only received the audio-visual prompts to slow down, but dramatic reductions in those who were paid. The average reward, according to Inside Line, was $23. Participants often turned driving into a game, to maximize the reward.

Has worked before

A similar scenario has been demonstrated to work before. According to Wired magazine, a man named Kevin Richardson submitted an idea to Volkswagen in 2009 about how to make not speeding fun. The idea uses speed cameras; every time a car passes at or below the speed limit, the driver’s name goes into a lottery. The lottery is funded by speeders, whose fines go into a kitty. The winning entrant gets the cash.

As of 2010, it was being used by at least one speed camera in Stockholm, Sweden. Swedish authorities noted in 2010 that the average speed of cars passing the camera dropped to 25 kilometers per hour (just under 13 mph) down from 32 kmh since the system was used.

A similar study in Australia, according to Inside Line, also found paying people not to speed worked. The study, done in 2011 through the University of Sydney’s Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies and published in the Australasian Transport Research Forum 2011 Proceedings , used nearly identical methods to the NHTSA study and found a 40 percent reduction in speeding when drivers were paid not to do so.


Inside Line


Sage Journals


ATRF (PDF – Requires Adobe Reader):

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