A Market-Driven Approach to Speeding
Exceeding the posted speed limit is an American tradition, and I'm as guilty as the next driver. Our go-go culture and wide open spaces practically guarantee it, and the law makes allowances.
A 2005 survey of 45 state highway safety offices found a median speeding tolerance of at least 9 miles per hour over the posted speed. But in the Netherlands, for example, you may get a ticket for going as little as 1.25 m.p.h. over the limit. Other northern European nations are similarly stringent, and boast much lower crash and fatality rates than the United States'.
In Minnesota last year, one-quarter of all single-vehicle crashes were blamed on illegal or unsafe speed. Overall, speeding was Minnesota's No. 1 contributor to traffic deaths, 22.5 percent of the total at 83, and was also implicated in 4,416 injuries. Ticketing and roadside speed-display signs have been a weak response.
More than a decade of human behavioral research, however, has shown that global positioning technology combined with financial incentives to observe posted limits can put a significant dent in speeding and its unpleasant outcomes. And here's the best part: Theoretically, at least, it wouldn't cost taxpayers a nickel.
According to a new study by researchers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Old Dominion University and Western Michigan University, auto insurers could improve their bottom lines with incentive-based discounts on premiums for feather-footed drivers who accept "intelligent speed adaptation" technology in their vehicles. Many already offer deals to drivers deemed safe by other measures.
The speed adaptation gadgets calculate speed in comparison with the posted limits on streets and highways. In some applications, speeding can be discouraged by constraining the throttle or just warning the driver that he or she is over the limit. But a less intrusive method would be a monetary incentive to ease up.
The study cited above offered drivers a $25 bonus for each week they drove no more than 4 m.p.h. over the limt. Each mile exceeding that carried a penalty deducted from the bonus, and that seemed to be the charm. It "resulted in significant reductions in driving faster than the posted limit," the researchers concluded. "Combining this technology with [an insurance] discount program may improve traffic safety significantly."
I'm enough of a penny-pincher that I'd probably respond positively to this kind of private-sector incentive. How about you?