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Points On A License

      Do you know how many points that you get for reckless driving? How about if you fail to get your car inspected? When do points begin to impact your ability to be licensed or get insurance?   

     If you think back to Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, you might remember  Sawyer being faced with the unpleasant job of painting his aunt’s fence. In fact, when Tom’s friend, Ben, comes walking by and begins making fun of him, Tom came up with an idea. He convinces Ben that he is excited about painting this fence.

     Sawyer is so convincing that Ben even asks if he could maybe add a few paint strokes. Tom refuses. Ben then trades an apple for the right to paint and soon, in the story, several more boys arrive and fall into this trap. The fence is painted by everyone but Tom.

     In the 1970’s, two psychologists decided to analyze motivation by conducting  a study on school children. It was then published in a book titled “The Hidden Costs of Rewards“. 

     The Psychologists divided the students into three groups. The first group was shown a “Good Player” certificate with their name on it. They were told that they would receive this, if they would draw a picture.

     The second group was not promised any “Good Player” certificate. This group was simply asked to draw. At the conclusion, they were then presented with an unexpected certificate, with their name on it, as a reward for their drawing.

     Again, independently from the other two groups, the third group was asked to just draw. At the completion of the period, the drawings were collected and nothing was ever mentioned about a reward.

     Two weeks later, back in the same classroom, the three groups were all together. Papers and markers were set out during the preschool play period. The psychologists/researchers sat back and watched.

     Those in groups 2 and 3 gravitated to the paper and began drawing. Those that had been in group 1, showed less interest in the paper and markers and showed a noticeable difference in spending less time in drawing.

     The topic of the book and findings of their studies, including the student drawing study, was  much like the fence in Tom Sawyer. “If then” rewards repeatedly snuffed out motivation. In that limited study, play had been turned to work. 

     This same type of study was done in England, involving blood donors. British Sociologist Richard Titmuss found that participants were more willing to give blood, when it had more to do with giving, than with receiving some kind of renumeration for donating. I have attached his book, which postulates that this same thought process should go into the consideration for policy.

     These type of studies do fascinate me and I readily admit that I’m not sure of these considerations and their application to law. I guess that would be a good doctorate dissertation paper. Motivation that portrays play instead of work has been classified by Daniel Pink as the “Sawyer effect”.

     I have noticed that the concept of driving points, on a license, seems to be meaningless. Perhaps it’s sole creation is to help insurance companies determine what your insurance premium should be. I wonder, though, whether a moving violation has anything to do with insurability. I would think that just because you happened to go through Emporia twice, and get a speeding ticket on Route 95, would have little bearing on whether you are a safe driver.

     Do people need the punishment of driving points and the threat of driving school, to cause them to drive more safely? Does a trucker need a “Golden Driver” certificate, to operate his rig in a safe fashion.

     My guess is that, we might just learn from these motivation/reward studies that people would drive more safely, if they just were encouraged about the good that they were doing, just by doing the speed limit. Maybe Mark Twain would have been a good driving Commissioner. I’ll bet his buggy didn’t have any fence dents.

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