Earlier this year, the New Zealand Police introduced Roadwatch, where motorists could narc on others. It’s not a bad idea: New Zealand 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 driving, and have to be pretty certain about other details: without being exact, the police will do nothing.
But if the cops have a method through which bad behaviour 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 road-safety 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 Fly Buys 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. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:37
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