Paying Drivers to Not Speed

A number of Freakonomics readers have alerted us to yet another novel lottery idea. As Wired reports, Kevin Richardson won Volkswagen’s Fun Theory contest for his idea: “Kevin’s idea is both smart and simple. As well as ticketing you when you run through a speed-radar too fast, Kevin’s ‘Speed Camera Lottery‘ also notices you when you come in at or under the speed-limit. It then automatically enters you in a lottery. And here’s the really smart part: the prizes come from the fines paid by speeders.” The camera is currently in use in Stockholm, where the “average speed of cars passing the camera dropped from 32km/h before the experiment to 25km/h after.” [%comments]


Well that's alright for Sweden where they are used to big government.

Ian Kemmish

Wouldn't you just get gambling addicts speeding round the city trying to drive slowly past as many speed cameras as possible?

Eric M. Jones

One of the err....hilarious....collections of speed camera mayhem committed by British drivers can be found at:

Apparently the common method of destruction is to necklace the thing with an old tyre and drop a road flare into it, although in the US our second amendment rights would come into play.

Scott from Henderson

People who refuse to keep up with traffic (i.e. who insist on driving 35 mph in a 45 mph zone) are every bit as dangerous as speeders. We don't need to provide an economic incentive to further impede travel on our roadways.


What about entering everyone who takes mass transit into a lottery funded by the tolls paid by those who insist on driving?


What Scott from Henderson said.

This morning on the interstate, I nearly died several times, by virtue of being stuck behind a phallanx of Mercedes Benz M minivans, whose drivers thought it was appropriate to run in the right and passing lanes 5 under, while being in front of scores of motorists who were actually trying to get somewhere.

This idea would work in countries who understand the necessity of the passing lane, not the 5,000 lb steel cocoon of insularity.


"Smith!" screamed the shrewish voice from the telescreen. "6079 Smith W! Yes, you! You're actually touching your toes! It's a shame the rest of you can't see him. He's a credit to society. For doing the group exercises correctly, 6079 Smith W will automatically be entered in the lottery for toothpaste and shoelaces."

The next great thing

This reminds me of an old Ozzie and Harriet story where Ozzie gets told he is to be recognized as a model driver and then proceeds to get a ticket and in a fight with the issuing officer before the ceremony recognizing him.

I guess my point in bringing that up is that since we have had city highways and roads people have flaunted safety and the rules of the road and cities have been trying to stop them. I see nothing wrong with cities looking for inventive ways to get people to obey the rules. In particular if it comes out of the offending parties pockets and not out of the city coffers. I also see nothing wrong with using the latest in technology to remind people that we all share the road and one persons behavior can have a significant impact on the rest of us.


lol at no 2.

Aaron in LA

Of course, the government HAS no money other than that which it takes by threat of fine or imprisonment.

Let's seize the college funds from the children of legislators who seek to redistribute property. Compel government employees to eat their own dog food by assessing a 20% luxury tax for sending their kids to private schools instead of the public schools and for using private health care instead of public clinics.

Harry's "1984" comment is right on target.


It's a brilliant idea, assuming that only those people AT the speed limit and not under enter the lottery. In most cases, not everywhere of course, traffic signs and speed limits are there for a reason.
And I completely agree with Jason although I think he is referring to regional/inner city public transport.
I am German and I believe that there would be a lot more people in trains and not blocking the Autobahn if train tickets weren't that ridiculously expensive (1-way from my university town to my hometown, approximately 300km, is 62$). So a lottery win might encourage me to take the train more often. Although the now very popular alternative, carpooling organized over the internet, also helps traffic flow and the environment.

fred smith

This is the dumbest idea i have ever heard of . This is about law enforcement. You don't get a ticket by obeying the law period.

Jon R.

Interesting! I love the cameras. I love that they are catching people who think they are getting away with driving any way they want. If a program like this will further help people slow down and follow the law, let's give it a shot.

Mike B

It's already trivial to no speed at speed cameras. All they are effective in doing is keeping me from not speeding in the 200 or so feet in the range of the camera. In fact there has been an unintended consequence in that now I have to often increase speed higher than I would have previously to make up the time lost to the speed camera zone.

anna taylor

Crazy idea, never heard of such a thing. Just teaching people to slow down at the camera area and that's it.


Have we really come to the point where we'll lower ourselves to paying people not to endanger the lives of their fellow drivers? Cameras are very effective at deterring reckless driving by providing far better enforcement of our traffic laws than cops can do, so let's let them do it and not debase ourselves by pandering to people for doing what they should be doing in the first place!


Is it possible that the reason the "average" speed has fallen is because there are people with nothing better to do than drive slowly around the block over and over in order to get extra lottery entries? I'm not saying that is what is happening, just that it is a possibility - after all, they are effectively being paid to generate extra traffic.

Cody F

I'm assuming (and I really hope I'm right) that there is some kind of "one per day" limit for this, to prevent abuse of the lottery system? If not, then I weep for the future.

Dan S

Fun idea, but one large flaw I see. If the end goal is to lower the number of drivers who speed I'm not sure this will accomplish the goal. If everyone slows down to enter the lottery then there won't be any pool to pay from. If there is no pool to pay from then the incentive to slow down returns to the previous level or at least decreases. Also, if there is less excessive speeding activity will there continue to be incentive to place speed cameras in the first place? I'm sure there will be an equilibrium reached but I'm not sure the equilibrim will be that different from the status quo. I guess we can assume that there will always be those who speed so why not profit from them!

Michael Scott

Let's just pass legislation that requires all licensed vehicles to have two cameras installed (and working) pointed at the speedometer, the other out the window toward speed limit signs.

Big Brother's central server monitors any divergence between the two numbers and emails speeding tickets accordingly.

Case closed.

(Police.......sorry about your job assurance! Or, perhaps just work on the "serious stuff".)