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December 08, 2021

Traffic camera rewards non-speeders with lotto-style prize

You’ve heard of that cool website, TheFunTheory.com, right? You know the one, that Volkswagen-backed behavioural economics-ish site that was behind the “Piano Staircase” video that went viral a while back.

834002_nospeed Well, the initiative is back making headlines again today, having awarded its Fun Theory award for best innovation.

And, pardon all the similar talk this week, but here’s another post on lotteries. The Fun Theory’s top prize went to an American inventor, whose idea of a “Speed Camera Lottery” really has to be seen.

You can check out the Speed Camera Lottery video here, but perhaps the images and indie-pop soundtrack downplay the possible real-world ingenuity of the proposal.

Because, this is something that could – nay, should – just work if policy makers can get it in play.

The premise is this, simple but brilliant: much like those show-your-speed radar guns you see on some roadsides, Fun Theory participants set up one of the devices at a major European intersection with a camera attached.

The gun/camera’s purpose was, then, twofold. Like a red-light traffic cam, the contraption snapped license plate photos of speeders and issued them tickets through the mail. Yet what it did with non-speeders is where we should pay attention.

For every non-speeder that passed the camera, someone who drove through under the posted limit, their plate was captured, too, and entered into a lotto-style draw. All non-speeders would be eligible for a reward from a pot made up of the cash paid in fines by speeders. If your plate is called, you’d get a cheque in the mail, as well; literally, using payment as an incentive to keep drivers traveling at a modest speed.

What cost the speed cameras require isn’t made clear, but there’s fire here to this smoke. Apart from being a cute, rinky-dink social experiment, the initiative boasted real results.

Over a three-day period, almost 25,000 cars passed the speed camera. Before the device was put up, the average speed of passing drivers was 32 km/h, according to TheFunTheory.com. After: 25 km/h, a 22 per cent speed reduction.

So, we ask: where are the holes to this plan? Provided the speed camera would come at a reasonable cost to taxpayers, what should stop this from working?

In Canada, local governments wouldn’t recoup cash gained from paid speeding tickets, but the cost of speed trap-style law enforcement would similarly decrease. And, if you believe cops and lawmakers’ insistence that road safety is of paramount concern, a small ding in speeding ticket revenue should be an easy trade-off if the speed cameras actually work.

What do you think of the Speed Camera Lottery? Good idea, bad idea or somewhere in between?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...