Dear Tom and Ray,

I agree that some people won't drive safely unless forced to do so, and wish you luck with your lawsuit to force the police to enforce traffic laws. But, just in case that doesn't work, may I suggest a technological fix?

With current sensor technology and microelectronics, it should be fairly easy to design and manufacture a "black box" that would detect and record bad driving. Although you could get pretty fancy, a simple device containing a 3D accelerometer and a datalogger would be inexpensive and tamper-proof. Even though it wouldn't directly detect speeding or tailgating, it would detect the telltale "acceleration signatures", such as frequent sudden deceleration or swerving, associated with these dangerous practices.

Why, you may ask, would a bad driver want such a device in their car? They wouldn't of course, and laws requiring them might conflict with the 5th Amendment, at least in the US. But good drivers might want to install them, for two reasons. First, they could be used to prove that you weren't at fault in an accident. They could also be used to show your insurance company that you are good driver, qualifying for a lower rate. Once the trend got started, it would be unstoppable. Anyone who refused to let their insurance company monitor their driving (by plugging into the black box once a year) would be charged prohibitive rates, as companies notice that essentially all of their claims are due to the 10% of clients who have refused black boxes, plus the few with black boxes who still drive dangerously. Bad drivers would have to clean up their act, or they would be priced off the streets.  Note that bad driving would be defined, operationally, as "driving like those who typically have accidents."

I don't understand why insurance companies aren't already doing this, but maybe our elected representatives, or the courts, could give them a nudge. All they would have to do is to prohibit rate discrimination based on age. That would leave the insurance companies two options: charge everyone such high rates that we would all sell our cars, or come up with a nondiscriminatory way of identifying high-risk drivers. Maybe the box could be programmed to beep every time the driver does something stupid. Once people learned that every beep was going to cost them $100, they would start driving more sensibly. Maybe you could get some of your buddies at MIT to work on this instead of nuclear weapons?

Hang up and drive!

Ford Denison