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2010 Study: License Points Have No Behavioral Impact
Study from 2010 shows the license point system for speeding tickets does not measurably deter speeding.

Arif Mehmood
The insurance industry argues that the system of adding points to the driver's license of anyone convicted of speeding will lead to safer roads. Lawmakers around the country have universally followed the industry's lead, assuming that people who receive tickets will see their annual insurance premiums skyrocket and this will change behavior. While those increases have improved the balance sheets of auto insurers, a 2010 study published in the European Transport Research Review questioned the assumption that the point system enhances road safety.

Arif Mehmood, a safety planner of the Department of Municipal Affairs and Transport in the United Arab Emirates, decided to test what others in his profession have taken for granted. So he studied the behavior of motorists after license points took effect in Al Ain, a city with a population of 500,000.

"This study attempts to evaluate the impact of the demerit points systems on the immediate targets such as reduction of speeding behaviors of drivers in Al Ain," Mehmood wrote.

UAE's point system took effect on March 1, 2008. Under it, drivers who accumulated 24 points in a year have their licenses suspended and vehicles impounded for a month. Accumulating another 24 points in a year results in a three-month vehicle confiscation and a one-year driving ban.

The researchers checked speeds on three main roads during free-flow conditions three months before and three months after the point system took effect. In light traffic, drivers were free to travel faster than the speed limit if they chose to do so. The number of vehicles exceeding the posted limit remained essentially unchanged.

"Spot speed data for before and after samples were divided into various classes and then the frequency distributions of these classes were compared separately for SUVs, sedans, and both types of vehicles," Mehmood wrote. "The analysis revealed that the demerit points system has no significant effect on the speeding behavior of drivers."

The study's author left as an open question whether the results were peculiar to El Ain and whether it would be different with more speeding tickets being issued. A copy of the study is available in a 300k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Evaluating impact of demerit points system on speeding (European Transport Research Review, 11/30/2016)

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