French Police to give away free gas to good drivers? Qu’est-ce que c’est?

French police embrace positive reinforcement behavior modification to improve driving safety.

Apparently along the route to the south of France from Paris to Orleans to Limoges to Toulouse drivers during the four weeks of the national “vacances” will be rewarded for good driving with coupons for approximately sixty dollars’ worth of gas.

While the nay-sayers might call it bribery, the fact is that behavior modification is always more effective when a desired behavior is rewarded.  It doesn’t even matter if the subjects – drivers in this case – know their behavior is being modified.

Punishing bad driving over the years has not modified the general habits of drivers to make them drive more safely.  But it does act as a source of revenue for municipalities – so one wonders who is really getting the positive reinforcement for bad driving.  Yes, you guessed it – the city, state, or other local municipality is hoping you will speed through their sleepy little town so they can collect a fine.

They know from years of good, solid behavioral science that punishment will not correct your driving habits – it will just make the subject (again the driver in this case) try to avoid the punishment.  So, again from good solid behavioral science they know all they need to do is simply move the speed trap and the whole process starts all over again.  They want to keep punishing you not to make you a safer driver, but to make up for budget deficits.  They know you will not change your driving habits over the long term for a punishment ticket – and they are happy about that.

However, if you knew that by not tailgating, or not speeding, or by using your blinker, you could end up with sixty dollars’ worth of gas you would actually be happy to see the police and show them what a good job you were doing.  Over time you would want to drive safely in the hopes of getting the sixty bucks and this would become your conditioned new behavior.

Positive reinforcement in this case modifies your behavior to drive more safely.

Punishment in this case modifies your behavior to be a better look-out for the speed traps and keep driving outside the rules of the road.

Positive Reinforcement is not just for dog training and, once your mind is keyed to pick up on it, you’ll be amazed by how often it occurs in our own lives.  If Chief Inspector Dreyfus realized this when dealing with Clouseau all those years he wouldn’t have ended up in an asylum.


Leave a Reply