Opinion: The law should incentivise good driver behaviour

Why not attach a carrot to the end of the stick instead of using the stick to beat the back instead?

Law incentivise good behaviour

Speeding fines. Parking fines. Defect notices. Cameras to catch you using your mobile. State governments pretty much have one way of enforcing the road rules, and that’s the stick: step out of line and you catch a whack, either cash or points or both.

It’s been that way for so long that it’s sort of jarring to be reminded that there’s another way – the carrot instead of the stick.

And by carrot I mean milkshake, for those among us who would rather be hit with a stick than eat carrots. Replacing carrots with milkshakes is not only an awesome cooking hack, it’s also how they reward drivers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Philly is trialling an app that rewards you for every minute you drive without looking at your phone, and the rewards include free milkshakes. As soon as the app detects that you’re in your car and doing over 15km/h, it launches and starts tracking your phone usage. Leave your phone alone and you gain points. Use your phone and you lose points. Get enough points and you can claim a free milkshake!

The app is regrettably called ‘This App Saves Lives’, which is sort of like renaming Google ‘This App Finds Porn’, or Facebook ‘This App Broke Democracy’. But the terrible name doesn’t even matter, since the app itself is paying you not to look at it. Paying you in free milkshakes!

The name will eventually become cruelly ironic when all the law-abiding citizens in Philly die of diabetes from endless free milkshakes, leaving only compulsively tweeting outlaws, who will all crash into each other until everyone is dead and the whole city becomes a ghost town filled with wolves gorging themselves on abandoned cheesesteak hoagies. But hey, that’s months away.

(The app also has some way of telling whether you’re gaming the system by using the app on the bus. But let’s be honest, riding on a bus is its own punishment.)

You can earn milkshakes while still using your phone to run GPS, play music and take hands-free calls – you just can’t touch it. Which is pretty much how I use my phone all the time, since I’m too old to floss the tiktoks in the meme cloud, even when I’m out of the car.

Anyway, it makes one wonder if the carrot method (henceforth known as the milkshake method) would be a better fit for Australian drivers than the stick, since it incentivises you to drive more boringly – I mean, safely – all the time, instead of in short bursts.

Preventing accidents and saving lives is an important, noble and worthwhile goal. But every time a state government announces some new crackdown, or installs additional cameras, or lowers the speed limit to below walking pace, there’s always the sneaking suspicion that they have their eye on upgrading their government cars to BMWs, instead of spending all that extra lucre on hiring more nurses or actually paying fire fighters or whatnot.

So consider this an unofficial referendum: would you work harder at sticking to the road rules if you got something for doing it, instead of shelling out when you got caught? Would you stay off your phone while driving for a milkshake? Would you stay under the speed limit if you got discounted petrol after a week of no speeding? Would you remove the ‘family stick figures’ stickers from your rear window in exchange for everyone not thinking you’re a knob?

And while we’re flipping from the negative to the positive, how about having merit points instead of demerit points on your licence? Do the right thing for a period and you get a merit point. Get 13 merit points and you get a whole new licence, with a whole new name and identity, which you can use to flee your old life and start over in the tropics and forget the awful mess you made of everything.

So tell us. Would you speed less if you were rewarded with milkshakes? Or cheap petrol, or a new identity? Anything except actual carrots.

Ugh. Carrots.


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