‘Reward Good Road Behaviour For Safer Roads,’ Says Local Tech Expert


Given the recent spate of road accidents happening on Maltese roads, the questions are obvious, though the answers are not. How can we make our roads safer? Are speed trap cameras the only option? Is it only through more enforcement that results can be achieved? Speaking to Professor Alexiei Dingli about how tech can help out, his insight revolved around ideas that can be implemented right away, rather than waiting around for futuristic solutions.

Use different cameras in long-stretches of road

The first thing he suggested would be to switch up the types of cameras we use. The scenario he painted will be a familiar one to many. “Right now, many will slow down before reaching a speed camera, observe the speed limit while in the lens’ range, before speeding up once again”, he said. “Using cameras that take your average speed over a stretch of road instead, means that you’ll have to observe a constant speed instead, rather than slow down and speed up accordingly”.

The Coast Road would be one place to implement such a measure, but he has a different suggestion, that’s not so much focused on punishing bad behaviour, but rather rewarding good road behaviour. There are devices that can be linked to our mobile phones or mobile apps, that can precisely track vehicle movement, speed and even driving style. “If insurance companies on a wide scale offered these solutions to willing customers, where they reward good behaviour on the roads (such as observing the speed limits or refraining from drink driving), then the customer premiums will go down.

Given the way artificial intelligence can learn patterns, if the driver is not following the usual pattern, the devices of different drivers can communicate with each other through a common platform and raise alerts, thus preventing potential accidents.”.

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Positive reinforcement has shown to have longer-lasting effects in terms of education, so applying it to our roads is certainly one way of reducing accidents because we now have an incentive to drive better.

Positive reinforcement works

The good thing about such devices is that your data privacy cannot be compromised, it’s simply a tool that will be used to judge your driving behaviour, which the insurance company will then interpret and determine just how well you’ve been driving and if it should result in paying lower fees.

“Really and truly,” Professor Dingli says, “it’s nothing out of this world. The technology is available today, it’s just a case of insurance companies getting on board and getting it off the ground.” And if you think that positive reinforcement of this sort doesn’t work in practice, just check out what took place in Stockholm a couple of years ago.

When passing a particular stretch of road, a camera would snap a photo of passing vehicles. If the driver was above the speed limit, a fine was imposed. That money, however, was used to fund a lottery prize for obedient drivers. Basically, if you were not a speeder, you could participate in the lottery, and you had the chance to win some money from those who didn’t follow traffic rules. It’s a win-win in various ways, because there’s the incentive of winning some money, and if that doesn’t do it for you, then you get to be the reason no funds went into the pot.

The result? The average speed in the area dropped from 32km per hour to 25km per hour, data taken from the 24,857 vehicles going past.

So, what do we do?

Would it work well across an entire nation? Possibly not, but reducing the number of accidents on our roads isn’t about finding just one solution. It’s about finding multiple solutions and implementing them correctly. Having a mixture of speed trap cameras, average speed check cameras, enforcement of laws, increased fines, rewarding good driving accordingly and self-driving vehicles (in the future) can all contribute to a much safer driving experience on a daily basis.

What do you think needs to be done to make Maltese roads safer?