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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Why Do We Have Traffic Violator Schools (TVS) ?

     I recently read a post touting the idea that TVS's are getting cheaper and easier to comply with, in order to eliminate a traffic citation and/or keep points off of your record, and to be honest, it really made my blood boil. Why do we even have these atrocities?
     I have yet to see a study that shows them to be effective, in any manner, other than to benefit the driver that was charged, at the expense of others in the society of drivers. Oh, I have heard the tiresome argument that "...bad things happen to good drivers...this helps them out!" and similar, but the basic truth is that they are nothing more a money-making machine, designed by law-makers, created by entrepeneurs who saw the pot o'gold, and web-based businesses who can sit at home in their pajamas and watch their bank account grow, without ever having to know a damn thing about driving or traffic safety.

(California Vehicle Code Section 42007 requires TVS drivers to pay a fee equal to the total bail set for the eligible offense on the uniform countywide bail schedule. This fee does not include the cost of TVS enrollment.)
     One of the largest states with such legislation and creation is California, and four studies, done over a period of 2 decades there, have shown that they are counter-productive. They have shown an INCREASE in traffic incident propensity by so-called "graduates" of such schools. Here's a few quotes from a 2007 study (pdf file):
"The number of drivers attending TVS courses has been increasing. For example, in year 2005, approximately 1,233,327 drivers completed a TVS course as compared to 939,719 drivers completing a TVS course in 1996, an increase of 31%. TVS dismissals represent about 25% of the total number of traffic violation abstracts reported to the department by the courts." (emphasis in these quotes is mine)
"The traffic safety value of the TVS citation dismissal policy has been questioned in several prior California DMV studies. For example, a 1979 study found no evidence that TVS programs had any impact on subsequent crash and citation rates. A 1987 study reported that TVS dismissals result in an increase in crashes compared to the effects of conventional adjudication (traffic conviction). A 1991 study presented evidence that the TVS group had a significantly higher (by 10.2%) crash rate than did a comparison group of convicted drivers after statistically adjusting for the more favorable preexisting characteristics of the TVS group. Three other department studies (1993, 1999, & 2003) found that TVS dismissals in combination with other risk factors increase traffic crash propensity beyond that of drivers who meet the state’s prima facie definition of a negligent operator." 
"These prior studies are consistent with the hypothesis that the TVS citation dismissal policy may result in increased crashes as the result of a loss in deterrence due to drivers’ avoiding both the department’s license control interventions, as well as an increase in insurance premiums. In addition, the masking of violation dismissals through the TVS option results in a distortion of the accuracy of the department’s records in predicting future crash risk."
and finally: "Results -The results of the current study were consistent with prior departmental evaluations reporting a negative traffic safety impact associated with the TVS citation dismissal policy."
     One-and-a-quarter MILLION attendees, in one year, in one state, and all the studies were consistent with the negative value of their effectiveness, and their affect overall driver safety? Some states seem to have a grasp that they are somewhat counter-productive, but at the same time they are big money, so they tweak the laws (Ohio comes to mind) to make such TVS's either court-mandated (as opposed to voluntary), or voluntary, (to dismiss citation and points) but only once in a lifetime, or every "X" years. 

     For those of you familiar with the legal concept of "Negligent Entrustment", TVS's throw a monkey-wrench into your own safety as a driver. Not only are these violations and points "masked" or hidden from insurance and general public inquiries, they are also hidden from employers seeking to hire a driver, and seeing if (s)he is a trustworthy driver.

     So I go back to my original question: Why do We Have TVS's?

Other links to pursue:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Scaring Teens and Others Into Changing Their Behavior

Recently, an attorney friend asked me what I thought about programs like "Every 15 Seconds" and others that are designed to scare teens into "behaving", especially with alcohol and texting. Every single authoritative study or report I have seen results in a definite no. Why? Why don't they work?

 First off, let me tell you that for the first few years, when I began teaching, I showed these films with utter confidence that they would "teach" my students about the dangers of drinking and driving. But then, I noticed a funny thing happening; new students came to class, and their FIRST question was, "Are we gonna see that bloody, gory crashes video?". When I told them no, they were terribly disappointed and whined that they wanted to see the brains, blood, and disfigured victims. WAIT!!! They WANTED to see it...not the alcohol part, but the blood and guts part? It was then that I realized that, fear and scare wasn't working, but the prurient interest in the CONTENTS of the film was. In other words, THE SCARE VALUE OBLITERATED THE EDUCATIONAL VALUE.

Some of you may remember the film, "Reefer Madness" from the early 1930's and re-released in the 1970's, about the evils and dangers of Marijuana.......I wonder how that worked out?

Many law enforcement groups, school PTA's and organizations like MADD, SADD and others, like to point out the decrease in alcohol-related traffic deaths and injuries, and claiming victory for their scare tactics, but they neglect to inform people what "alcohol-related" means, and they NEVER show videos of kids laughing AFTERWARDS about the film(s). They have adopted a fully POLITICAL style of messaging to their recipients, mainly spinning the best stats, ignoring or denigrating the ones which don't agree with their agenda.

Make no mistake about this blog post; I am FULLY against drinking/texting/cellphone use while driving. But history shows that fear doesn't last long, and without a strong education or empirical knowledge to MAINTAIN a "fear" or respect for an entity, skill, or behavior......it won't last.

Some links: