We respond to the risk of getting away with breaking the law

Or, as Thom Yorke once famously said, the more you drive, the less intelligent you get.

The Roads Minister, Eric Roozendaal, has backed away from his promise last year to enforce school-zone speed limits by rotating covertly monitored mobile speed cameras across the state.

Instead, fixed cameras will be installed in just 50 school zones in NSW, meaning almost 11,000 school zones have infrequent and sporadic police enforcement.

So, “rotating covertly monitored mobile speed cameras”: there is a single manner in which a permanent stop would be put to all speeding. By ensuring, publicly, that every inch of road had a speed camera pointed at it. I.e., ensuring, and making publicly known, that your probability of not being caught speeding was exactly zero. Anything less will not be effective. Double-demerit weekends work fine, because they usually include (or at least imply) elevated policing – i.e. the chances of being caught go up.

This, by the by, is also among the reasons why capital punishment is idiotic. It’s just a human logic problem: we’re hyperbolic discounters. We just do not properly value – or evaluate – the consequences of our actions. Especially when behind the wheel.

So, this reaction:

In May last year, Mr Roozendaal announced an initiative to use mobile hidden cameras, warning that “any school zone could have a camera in it”.

is wrong. The message to motorists would be that any school might not have a camera in it – unless there were simply far more zones with them, and this were known. I would say (without any analysis at all) that anything, certainly, below 50% would be ineffective.

Also this:

He said Mr Roozendaal had been “rolled” on the initiative by his cabinet colleagues, who feared a political backlash about revenue-raising from drivers caught by covert cameras.

is probably true but, on the part of motorists, equally wrong. If we honestly believe we will be caught speeding we will not speed. Ergo: the government will invest in all the cameras and earn no money. Which is fine (full disclosure: as well as an unsympathetic non-motorist, I am also an unsympathetic non-road-law-breaker, non-life-threatener, and so forth. Speeding motorists are complete twats).

Using roving, probabilistic methods of policing, however, only ensures that people will speed. Because people will believe they can get away with it. Anything other that total saturation is in fact revenue-raising, but motorists just refuse to see the basic calculus at work. Just like Thom Yorke said.


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