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Using the internet to reward safe driving 

Red light, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/9858329@N03/Earlier this year, the New Zealand Police introduced Roadwatch, where motorists could narc on others. It’s not a bad idea: drivers are pretty appalling by western standards, and as I noted on my personal blog, I have found plenty of people running red lights of late. (Not yellow, red.) Those filing reports have to include their own name and the registration of the car they are , and have to be pretty certain about other details: without being exact, the will do nothing.
   But if the cops have a method through which bad can be recorded, why not some positive behaviour? It’s not a new idea. New Zealand Police had tried, one summer, stopping people for driving well as a trial, but I imagine that they no longer do it since you had perfectly innocent motorists getting freaked out on why a police officer might be approaching them.
   The internet seems to be a very good way to reward motorists instead. Among the TVCs running here is one featuring a group of young men, and a designated driver being seen as a bit of a hero by his mates for “taking one for the team”. So how about a positive version of Roadwatch?
   Roadwatch, as I understand it, does not result in actual prosecutions. The police simply use it to send out a warning, so that the person reporting the offence does not have to serve as a witness. It is in the interests of road safety: the police do not make a cent from this, but putting a careless driver on notice for, say, running a red light might just save lives as well as added expense to the taxpayer if an accident were to take place.
   Equally, a “positive Roadwatch” report need not result in providing a motorist with merit points, but it could earn that motorist everything from a free warrant of fitness check to having six months of their registration paid for.
   Alice Palmer, one of our interns, tells me that she and her fellow students might forgo heading out with their friends for a get-together because they have to save up to pay for their registration. The registration is a huge expense for young people, and since the young, especially the 15–24 male, is a big target for road-safety efforts, why not encourage them to earn a registration through good behaviour?
   The plan is not flawless (would those predisposed to being boy racers bother?), but I think it is worth a shot.
   Kiwis are already used to accruing points for mundane things such as shopping, earning credits which can be redeemed on airline flights. Giving young folks a coupon for six months’ registration seems a small price to pay if it means saving lives or paying for emergency services in accidents.
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.

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