By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D
Founding Editor, bSci21.org
Have you ever received a traffic ticket in the mail? I have, and it isn’t fun. My ticket, from Denton County, in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, even came with a picture of my vehicle and a link to watch a video of myself running a red light. The underlying behavioral principles seem fairly straightforward — automating tickets means that every single time you commit a traffic violation, you will receive a ticket. If that’s not the definition of a punishment contingency, I don’t know what is.
So-called “automated enforcement” programs are catching on across the country and a seven-year case study from the Washington D.C. area is a notable case-in-point. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety implemented the seven-year program, which grew over the years to include “56 fixed cameras, 30 portable cameras, and 6 mobile speed vans.” After only six months, the program produced notable reductions in speeding, and after seven years the probability of speeding decreased by 59%. Moreover, cameras decreased the severity of crashes by 19% in terms of fatalities and severe injuries.
In an effort to further supplement the cameras’ effects, speed corridors were introduced, targeting long stretches of road rather than particular areas. The Institute noted that the corridors reduced crash severity by an additional 30%. Researchers estimated that such a program could prevent approximately 21,000 “fatal or incapacitating injuries” if implemented across the U.S.
Even more interesting is the finding of a “spillover effect” in which drivers on non-targeted roads have slowed down as well.
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