Given that the role of governments these days is to try and take as much money from you as they can and that the system of policing is based on punishment rather than reward, I was a bit surprised to read about our government’s new scheme to “reward” good drivers/riders. The change, many years ago from the police being known as the “NSW Police Service” to the “NSW Police Force” clearly showed how much the emphasis of policing has changed.
However, I was intrigued to read that the government wanted to do something to reward rather than punish. It certainly got my attention.
However, the devil, as they say, is in the detail. What seems to be a good step in the right direction is, instead, a bit of smoke and mirrors designed to deceive rather than encourage good driving. Here is the detail.
Under the 12-month trial, eligible motorists who have at least one demerit point on their record from January 17 but remain offence-free for 12 months to January 17, 2024, will have one demerit point removed from their driving record. It normally takes three years for a demerit point to be expunged.
Wow, that seems pretty good, doesn’t it? Um, not really. There are more holes in this scheme than a kitchen colander.
Firstly, it is supposed to be a reward but it, in fact, provides one crumb to a group of people who, most likely, don’t have any points on their licence anyway. It is hardly an incentive for the vast number of road users who already drive/ride carefully and won’t benefit AT ALL from this scheme.
Secondly, it is, in fact, an incentive for careless and stupid road users to be even less careful than they normally are to pick up a bonus demerit point that they will soon squander away again.
Thirdly, the riders/drivers that this scheme is supposed to “encourage” to be more responsible, don’t care, by and large with demerit points anyway. They are what I choose to call “recidivist riders” who would rather take their chances in regular law-breaking and not really care how many points they have accrued. So they accrue too many points and their licence gets taken away? So what? They continue to ride/drive even in the face of suspensions and previous punishments. The fact that they are not licensed to drive/ride, doesn’t bother them at all. The fact that they also continue to ride/drive unregistered and uninsured vehicles is of no concern to them either.
In fact, the people who stand to be most negatively impacted by the obsession with demerit points as a means of disincentivising bad driving/riding, are the people for whom this scheme is of no benefit anyway, law-abiding road users like you and me. Green Slip prices will continue to go up, police budgets will rise as more emphasis is placed on handing out demerit points and, in the mean time, poor stiffs like us who happen to be carved up in these fools’ road crashes will pay through the nose as the ability to CLAIM against these recidivist road-users is further and further reduced.
You only have to troll the motorcycle forums to see how little it worries these fools when they get booked and lose points. To many of them, it is treated as a badge of honour with the police being demonised as the bad guys while the morons who commit the crimes are lauded as heroes.
It reminds me so much of the opening monologue of the great BBC comedy series, “Porridge”. It features Ronnie Barker as a criminal who spends most of his life in jail (porridge) and the opening words are of the judge who sentences him.
“Norman Stanley Fletcher, you have pleaded guilty to the charges brought by this court, and it is now my duty to pass sentence. You are an habitual criminal, who accepts arrest as an occupational hazard, and presumably accepts imprisonment in the same casual manner.”
All rather negative, really, do I have a positive suggestion that could lead to better road use? Yes, I do, but, as they say in the classics, I don’t think you are going to like it.
Governments find it easy to punish and difficult to praise, but we all know that positive reinforcement works better than negative (Sociology 101). So, what is my suggestion? Instead of passing out “rewards” that don’t COST anything, why not provide a REAL incentive for people to be better road users. Reward good drivers/riders by providing a reduction in the yearly licence fees if they go for a year without getting booked.
Would it work? Of course it would. Would the government DO it? Of course they won’t because no government gives back money. Wouldn’t it be lovely, though if our government had the courage to try it?