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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?

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