Trade Your Ticket for Driver Training

Mortar Board"You don't care about safety! All you guys want to do is suck money out of my pocket!" Here was a speeder that was very definite in his opinion and not afraid to state it. He was wrong, I did care about safety, but driver training by ticket was one of the few options in my officially sanctioned toolkit.

Enforcement Options

When I saw a traffic violation I really only had 3 options: ignore it, warn the driver for their behaviour or write them a ticket.

Which option I chose had a lot to do with the circumstances present. Was the action a danger to themselves or others? Would the driver benefit more from a warning and a few words of education or was it serious enough to warrant writing the ticket?

Sometimes what the driver had to say at the roadside made it apparent that they had no intention of following that particular driving rule in the future.

The Teaching Was Limited

If the action was not significant and driver was receptive, the warning and an explanation of why they should not do that would bring the contact to a successful close. However, that only dealt with one particular driving behaviour and did not contribute to any further skill assessment and improvement.

Driver Training Instead

image of the words driver training painted on the highway

Knowing that I was about to retire, I thought to myself "What are they going to do, fire me?" So I wrote the ticket and after I had served it I told the driver that I had a deal for him. Spend the cost of the ticket on himself for driver training at the school of his choice, bring me the receipt and I would run the ticket through the shredder.

Positive Results

He took the deal and returned to the detachment within a couple of weeks with the receipt. He said that he had learned that he was not shoulder checking properly, failed to turn out of and into the correct lane at intersections and wasn't coming to a proper stop at stop signs.

I handed him all copies of the ticket and told him that he could do what he wished with them.

Restorative Justice

A traffic court justice mentioned in a conversation that we were having that he wished more officers would do something like this as a form of restorative justice. He offered the example of the Victoria PD Traffic Unit and I was able to find a similar program run by the Surrey RCMP Detachment.

Road Safety Strategies

Personally, I thought that this neatly filled the commitment to the education goals of both the Canadian Road Safety Strategy and the BC Road Safety Strategy education element. This driver and those around him benefited far more from the driving school's advice than he would have learned from paying the $138 penalty for speeding.

Of course, he could have chosen to treat the ticket in the usual manner by payment or dispute but I think we were both pleased with this outcome.

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That is one of the best articles I have seen.  I would like to see the courts using such a system.  I think it would improve a lot of people's driving habits.  And I think it was a sad day for safe driving when they took driver training out of high schools.  Keep up the good ideas.

What a brilliant idea!! I knew a fellow who had poor driving skills, and as a passenger, I spent much time pointing things out, like speed limits, crosswalks, merging vehicles etc. The lack of driving skill must have been frustrating for him (and not to mention dangerous for other road users). 

This is a terrific idea and would love to see this become a trend used in communities around the province. Bravo to you for providing this driver with the choice and giving drivers around him a safer drive home!

This was actually the tail end of what I had hoped would be a unit project when I was on Central Island Traffic Services in Parksville. I had put together a business case for a Trade Your Ticket for Driver Training program and submitted it through the chain of command for approval.

Unknown to me, two other constables in the Lower Mainland had done the same thing just before I had, so the two proposals were looked at and I understood received the support of RCMP Traffic Services at E Division (Vancouver Headquarters) level. They took it to provincial Crown Counsel on our behalf and were eventually told that if the program was to go ahead it must go ahead province wide.

The idea died a quiet death at that point, I am guessing because no one at headquarters level was able to dedicate the needed resources to organize it on the province wide scale. I was disappointed, but in no position to change the outcome.

As I wrote in the article, this happened just before I retired and I felt that I had nothing to lose by trying it anyway. I was fortunate that the gentlemen took me up on the offer and was generous enough to talk to me candidly about it afterward. He also gave me his permission to speak to the driving school and ask what they saw when he was with them. They reiterated what he had said about his experience and added a couple of other minor issues that he had not mentioned.

To me, this was a wonderful opportunity to turn a negative reinforcement into a positive one. I provided the nudge for the driver to do self improvement and he took it. The initial speeding ticket might have caused him to watch his speed for a while afterward but I would like to think that maybe the evaluation and tips provided by the driving school actually created a new habit or two that could ultimately result in a safer driver and avoid future problems.

Of course, it might go some way to changing the public misperception that traffic policing only exists to create income for the government. I know that there are many people out there in traffic enforcement that genuinely want to help people be better drivers but are limited by convention.

Times are changing, and this project would be no different than restorative justice or diversion, both of which are currently practiced within the criminal system. Maybe one day I will see it happen.

The Safe Driver Dialogue Circle program provides younger drivers (ages 16-29 years) an opportunity to learn how to be responsible drivers and their role in creating safer roads. Using a restorative framework, drivers engage in meaningful conversations around the dangers of irresponsible driving, harm to communities and consequences of unsafe behaviors in lieu of paying tickets. Hearing from those who have been injured by irresponsible driving and those whose job it is to enforce road safety violations, drivers get an unique perspective that aims to create more aware and attentive road users.

While still in its infancy, the program has received very favorable responses from participating drivers. The feedback received from the over 75 drivers who have participated in the program to date shows that there is a real need to discuss the values behind safe driving, the connection between self reflection and self correction and appreciation for the harm that irresponsible driving causes.

The program continues to serve the Surrey community and has recently expanded to allow for more drivers to be eligible for the program.

I notice some of the posts go back to 2009.  What has the Provincial Government done to adopt this practical and useful idea??  Loss revenue from traffic ticket fines may be the blockage?