A powerful idea has to start somewhere, many times it’s over a cup of coffee with two friends or colleagues, but it also could come from a point of adversity. Either way, when a powerful idea becomes a reality, it truly can be a win-win for the parties involved. A cop in Seattle had lost his wife who had been hit by a driver that failed to stop for her at a crosswalk. Officer Belshay and colleagues regularly would conduct enforcement efforts to ticket other drivers who would disobey the pedestrian traffic laws in the city. Then it came, before he was ready to retire in 2012, he decided to change the violation into a reward making his efforts have a longer life and bigger social reach. He bought a stack of $10 gift cards from a local restaurant and handed them out to drivers and bicyclists who did the right thing by allowing pedestrians to cross the street. Within the hour, he rewarded 34 people for stopping when they were supposed to, and this gratitude began generating positive news for the police department.
Zoom to today, a city councilman who has seen the benefits from this social exposure for Seattle is taking this idea to the big stage called Seattle Vision Zero initiative, a powerful idea for transportation planning that has the goal of reaching zero traffic fatalities by 2030. Several cities are beginning to adopt planning programs to curb fatalities, all of which are based on a three-pronged approach, using engineering, enforcement and education. However department of transportation officials in Washington believe this is the first of its kind in using positive reinforcement such as gift cards to promote safe driving. City and state officials have been working at various locations including local elementary schools, high traffic bridges and public market spaces.
Sure, it’s a crazy idea and maybe Seattle has a budget to spend on goodies for good citizens, but imagine if this same idea was performed in Fort Wayne, Indianapolis or Dayton? Allstate Insurance ranked Fort Wayne 35th safest city in the country, yet Dayton was slightly lower at 49 and Indianapolis barely registering at 76. With the cities that Hoch Associates is located in, all running to improve quality of life by investing in several miles of new bike lanes and complete streets programs, the Vision Zero initiative can help achieve better benchmarks.