Smiles, frowns could be more effective than speed camera in slowing traffic down

July 27, 2011

"Hold on, Aunt Bess, only a mile before we reach the hospital. Hurry, can't you go any faster? "Sorry, "replies the driver, "but everyone is going 10 miles under the speed limit on the road to the hospital. The Laurel City Council thinks this is a good spot for speed cameras. Aunt Bess will just have to wait it out."

Over-dramatic? My position is that speed cameras are used as a revenue-generation tool under the guise of safety. But rather than complain of an Orwellian-style Big Brother conspiracy, here's a solution that's twice as effective.

It works because persuasion is better than compulsion. Some of the signs that flash your speed at you, now actually show a smile or frown, to act as an emotional trigger. What's fascinating about them is they operate at 10 percent the cost of a speed camera, but prevent twice as many accidents. Yes, that weird little smiley face has a better effect on changing behavior than the threat of a $40 fine.

Many of us are not speed demons, but often focused on other thoughts and simply need a gentle reminder of our speed. Do we really need to serve under a jack-booted robotic Gestapo? Let's replace speed cameras with vehicle-activated signs. If it is about safety, not money, wouldn't that be the right thing to do?

Nate Hammond


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