Not a bar­gain, and not safer, even at half the price

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

Re­gard­ing the Feb. 2 Metro ar­ti­cle “Pro­posed $1,000 speed­ing fine is low­ered — to $500”:

The District’s pro­posed traf­fic reg­u­la­tion rule­mak­ing in­cludes at least 10 in­creases in mov­ing vi­o­la­tion fines, dou­bling or even tripling the cur­rent amounts. The goal, claim D.C. De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion of­fi­cials, is that “by the year 2024, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., will reach zero fa­tal­i­ties and se­ri­ous in­juries.” Plainly, DDOT imag­ines that in­creased fines lead to in­creased com­pli­ance. The trou­ble is that both com­mon sense and sci­en­tific re­search show that that is not so: As long as the prob­a­bil­ity of be­ing tick­eted is low, the size of the fine is ir­rel­e­vant. For ex­am­ple, a study found that dou­bling of speed­ing fines in Swe­den yielded “no ev­i­dence of a change in of­fend­ing road user be­hav­iour.”

Are the in­creases in mov­ing-vi­o­la­tion fines for, as AAA Mid-At­lantic spokesman John B. Townsend II wor­ried, “rev­enue gen­er­a­tion, [rather] than traf­fic safety”? No, I think this is all about pol­i­tics and per­cep­tion: The pub­lic wants some­thing done, so DDOT is do­ing some­thing, how­ever in­ef­fec­tual. Un­for­tu­nately, this rule­mak­ing does not even men­tion the truly se­ri­ous causes of traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties and in­juries: drunken driv­ing, drugged driv­ing, dis­tracted driv­ing and drowsy driv­ing. Those are the killers, not triv­ial vi­o­la­tions such as “fail­ure to yield to a bus reen­ter­ing traf­fic.”

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