Lottery Tickets for Safe Drivers?


Last month, Eric Morris wrote a post on red light cameras at traffic intersections in L.A. that sparked a robust debate in the comments section, something we always like. The debate centered around whether these devices are effective at reducing people’s willingness to run a red light, or whether they’re merely sources of revenue for the city. Perhaps you’ll feel similarly passionate about a new Australian study that examined the benefits of fixed speed cameras in New South Wales. From an article:

On the whole [Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat] has found that speed cameras do change driver behavior and improve road safety but not in all cases. He has found 38 of the 141 fixed cameras across the state seem to have no significant benefit to road safety. The report suggests the Roads and Traffic Authority continue with plans to review those cameras and consider either removing or relocating them.

The report found no evidence that revenue raising was a factor in the location of a cameras.

It says revenue from speed cameras reduces the longer they operate.

The most interesting bit comes from the Sydney Morning Herald, which reports that one of Achterstraat’s recommendations is to give lottery tickets and thank you cards to randomly selected drivers who stick to the speed limit. The idea is to ”break the nexus between speeding and revenue raising,” so that drivers know the cameras aren’t simply cash cows for the government.

This actually seems like nice gesture. People who drive the speed limit are incidentally producing a public benefit. Is there anything wrong with giving them a little extra incentive? And letting them know their good deeds aren’t going unnoticed?

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  1. Matt says:

    Already happened with the Speed Camera Lottery, and it worked.

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  2. Mike B says:

    Unless you implement Orwellian average speed cameras that track vehicles along their entire journey and calculate their average speed, speed cameras only actually reduce speeding for the 100 feet directly in front of the camera. This is similar to how standardized testing only really tests the ability to take that pass that specific kind of test.

    I have the misfortune to live in an area that recently decided to install these little piggy banks at intersections already fitted with red light camera infrastructure. I can tell you from my own experience that they haven’t made my driving any better, but instead force me to take more risk. When traffic lights move in predictable waves or windows I have to be at a certain light by a certain time to make it. Therefore when forced to slow down for a speed camera, I then must gun it to make the next light. While I don’t feel this really impacts my safety that much I would still prefer to maintain a more even speed profile simply because braking then accelerating wastes gas.

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    • Steve Bennett says:

      We have point-to-point speed cameras on certain roads in Australia. There’s nothing “Orwellian” about them – they’re a lot fairer than single-point cameras. With a single-point camera, you could drive at the speed limit all day, except for a single lapse of concentration. The penalty? A big fine and loss of demerit points. OTOH, there’s really no excuse for averaging 120kph in a 110kph zone over an hour.

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  3. Clancy says:

    It seems like speed cameras would be effective at reducing speed OR raising revenue. If they aren’t doing either, then either speeding is already not a problem, or the fines aren’t high enough.

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  4. FDUK says:

    We have average speed cameras in the UK, and they seem to work rather well… In that cars on the streatch covered keep (more or less) to the speed limit.

    However I was caught by a Police operated speed camera the other day. Rather than get a fine I got a warning that speeding there was dangerous. Something I could agree with. Since then I have been much more careful at that spot, so I guess not getting fined worked and I feel less resentful.

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  5. Gary says:

    So I’m supposed to feel good about myself because Big Nanny Government says so? I’ll grant the state the right to curb socially harmful behavior in turn for the protection I get from bad drivers. However, an approving pat on the head is insulting. Additionally, the “reward” is a socially detrimental lottery ticket. Lotteries prey upon the poorer citizens (who are the majority of ticket buyers) by giving them a false hope of miraculous rescue from their circumstances. Lotteries have atrocious payout ratios and studies show that they often are the gateway to other types of addictive gambling.

    That’s what’s wrong with the idea.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 10
    • Mike B says:

      If free lottery tickets induced people to play the lottery more I am sure we would see States giving away free tickets much more often.

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  6. Simon Grey says:

    Alternatively, we could simply dispense with traffic laws altogether, that they way there would be no resentment condescension , and the roads would be safer and more efficient.

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  7. Sam says:

    It’s worth a shot to see how well it works. It would hopefully accomplish two goals:

    First, making the cameras revenue neutral would remove the argument that the cameras are primarily installed as a hidden tax.

    Second, it gives the majority who benefit (rare red light runners) positive feedback on the system which counters the vociferous few who have been caught. Receiving a good driver bonus (perhaps when you renew your license) would take a lot of the sting out of that occasional ticket. Of course, those who get these tickets regularly will still complain, but they deserve it.

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  8. Nikki says:

    So there really are people who think it is a good idea to replace “if you don’t drive safely, somebody may die” with “if you don’t drive safely, you’ll not get a lottery ticket”?

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