Want to start a business to reduce the road toll?

Mathew Sanders raises an interesting point is comments to the last post. It is very difficult to report poor driving in New Zealand.

It seems it is also difficult to do so in Australia.

In other countries there are a few non-governmental sites that are  sites in this space:

betterdrivingplease (UK, 18000 reports, activists, plate based)

arrivealive (Sth Africa) (not bad – general advice, not government owned. Seems to make it easier for reporting but not the main focus)

Bad Drivr (under construction since 2006, messy layout, some potential with video, maps but updates are old)

platewire (records US licence plate numbers of idiots – not bad. It has been “in the middle of upgrading for this week” since 2006, but front page is up to date)

roadragers (US/Canada. General advice, can report but doesn’t seem to do much.)

There does seem to be a gap in the New Zealand and Australian markets.

So – how about it?

Let’s make it easy to capture and send traffic incidents to police. At the very least why not make it easy to simply capture idiot driving and name and shame?

The Mission

The point would be to discourage the poor behaviours that could lead to accidents, and to report extremely poor/hyper aggressive behaviours to the police. Extreme poor behaviour is blatant drunk driving, road rage, group hooning/racing and so forth. It’s behaviour that has the clear ability to kill people.

The Site

We could capture input from any source: email (pictures, video), mms pictures, flickr/youtube/photobucket/etc., facebook, SMS, twittering and even blogging. Video cameras are getting smaller and it won’t be long before there is a cheap way to record everything from inside you car.

We would display the input in a easy to browse/search manner, categorising by incident type, by location and by things like vehicle type.

We would give people the ability to make a report “official” and which we will pass along to the police. (e.g. that will have to be non-anonymous, at least to the police)

We would back the site up with good editorial on what makes good driving, what we can do when we see dangerous driving and so on. We would not necessarily take a single stand on issues, but would encourage the community to come to consensus. Hopefully some of the clips will go viral and/or get on TV – helping the site, the police and embarrassing the offender. Which is the point.

We need a web design firm, a graphics person, usability folk, some cunning programmers, some clever marketers, time, and, sadly, a chunk of money that frankly probably won’t get any financial return.

The money will determine the success or not, as we all have plenty of other free work to do. Regardless – the design and development contributions would probably have to be for free, or if we are well financed, for “not much”.

We’ll probably think of a revenue model somewhere along the line if we get big enough.

So – is anyone keen? 

But what about Big Brother?

Yes – this is big brother-ish.

And I have at times driven too quickly over the years and would probably have (or maybe will) featured on a site like this. It’s not the relatively minor transgressions, but the really unsafe behaviour that we are targeting. But if a site like this had existed in the past then my driving would have been slower (but less exciting) and safer. And that’s the point.

And why stop at driving – why not road conditions, hazards, and so forth?

About Lance Wiggs

@lancewiggs
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14 Responses to Want to start a business to reduce the road toll?

  1. sm3rt says:

    NZ Police already have a form of capability on their site to report someone http://police.govt.nz/service/road/roadwatch.html they then get a letter…

    I guess this is a bit different from the ‘wall of shame’ you propose. I’d suggest somehow that a few of the perpetrators have no shame.

  2. Glen Barnes says:

    I think there already is a website but I can’t seem to find it. It was on TV3 a year or so ago but the people behind it didn’t seem to clued up on web stuff so I don’t think it would have succeeded. It is an interesting idea and I think it could be made to work.

  3. tom says:

    great idea!

    one thing tho – could using a camera to record other bad drivers while you are driving be in itself a case of bad driving? would you perhaps stipulate that only footage shot by passengers and/or drivers in stationary cars (i.e. stopped @ lights) would be acceptable?

    i also had a similar concept awhile ago – a ‘learn-to-park you idiot’ site. complete with stickers/flyers you could order and append to the offending vehicle. was borne from the continued frustation i began to feel towards the hopeless way people tend to park in and around Auckland city… same model could be applied to hopeless drivers – though you’d need to follow them, or happen to be close when they came to a stop, to apply the sticker/flyer idea.

    finally – wasn’t “0800 smoky” a runaway success? (was for dobbing in smoky vehicles)

  4. Lance Wiggs says:

    Tom
    I agree driivng and videoing is fraught with danger.
    Happily there are passengers, as well as devices already and coming that record everything from the driver’s perspective, including speed and location.

    That said, I do often take photos/video from my motorcycle with a small digital camera. It’s taken a lot of practise, and there is always a “oh shit” plan (e.g. velco on the bottom and stick to the tank). The camera is attached to me with a light bungee, and I can just let it go. The footage is awesome – I’l put some up here one day.

    Learn to park you idiot seems to be something that the site could do as well.

    Don’t know anything about the 0800 smoky. But part of this site could be an 0800/0900 number. we could use bigears to transcribe and post.

  5. Nigel Ramsay says:

    I’ve often thought of building a similar site, but from a cyclists point of view.

    But, there’s no reason why it should be vehicle or even location-specific.

    You could probably whip up a basic version of the website in a few days. Especially if you’ve got some designers on board.

    Happy to help.

    Nigel

  6. Nigel Ramsay says:

    One more thing – you could connect the reported number plates with data from this website.

    http://www.carjam.co.nz/

    And this is a potential revenue source. You could charge users to buy their report, and make a cut on the transaction.

  7. Mike Pethig says:

    I’m not convinced riding a motorbike in a canal is safe driving? Or would that be “a relatively minor transgression”. If so, in who’s opinion?

    This idea feels like the Sensible Sentencing Trust meets Ruby on Rails.

    Not a fan.

  8. Lance Wiggs says:

    Fair cop Mike – riding a motorcycle at 80-100kph on a canal isn’t exactly safe riding behavior. In my defense it was while on a BMW off road driving course (in South Africa), under superb instruction and only after I had done my own risk assessment.

    Still – while it almost ended badly, it does appear to be a lot more dangerous than it actually is.

    And you nail the weak point – if all of our driving was exposed, then are any of us driving safely and legally at all time? I think not.

    I certainly have been guilty (in other, unnamed, countries only of course) of some aggressive driving through the years. It used to be easy to drive your car or bike at the limit of its capabilities, but at the relatively slow legal speeds. These days the vehicles are so good that driving at the vehicle limit implies that you are driving at speeds that will kill yourself and many others when you lose control.

    A great vehicle will not help you much though if you are impaired.

  9. Colin says:

    This is frightening. Have all you guys taken some some of advanced driving test to enable you to ‘police’ the road, This is vigilanty stuff. Yes, drinking and driving is one thing, but its your “…and so forth” that takes it to another level. Driving a Morris Minor round a sharp bend at 40kph might be many times more dangerous than driving a Porsche round the same bend at 100kph.
    I drive a State Highway route daily and know that one can safely take each gentle bend at the 100kph speed limit. Today l followed a car that despite applying his brakes whilst going round every bend (a very dangerous habit) reducing his speed to 65 kph, he then sped up to 105kph on the straights in the full knowledge that l wished to overtake him. Should he report me for getting too close as he slammed on his breaks around bends or should l for his obstructive driving, perhaps we should both report each other!
    I think you should stick to NZ Internet, Media and Business and leave it to the professionals to address driving issues – God knows there are enough police vehicles in this country.

  10. Lance Wiggs says:

    Colin
    No – we have not collectively taken advanced road safety tests, nor will we. we are not advocating vigilante behaviour. The ultimate determination of safe driving lies in the hands of the traffic police.

    However I will say three things:

    1: We can and should capture evidence of egregious offences – preferably video evidence from the plethora of video capturing devices that are out there. When we are not driving of course. We should also be intolerant of people that are obviously drunk when they enter a vehicle.

    2: Safety is something that has to be a personal value rather than something that is enforced through policing. I do not agree that the current enforcement methods work – they would never work on an industrial site for example.

    When we are driving sober and safely regardless of the presence of cameras, police and so forth then we are demonstrating that we have road safety as a value and we are on the path to not hurting anybody. Our attitude toward safe driving changes as we age as well, so let’s help the younger less experienced drivers as they learn.

    3: I’ve ridden in over 60 countries. Safety on the road in each country is not about reading and understanding the official rule books. Being safe in each place is about quickly understanding the unofficial rules of the road. Do cars pull over when faster cars are approaching from the rear? Do cars see motorcycles when commuting? What are the road surfaces like? What speed do you travel on the highway? How do intersections work?
    This has little to do with rules and everything to do with awareness of what is happening and awareness on your effect on others. Many countries have what I call active driving – driving where you cannot just sit in your lane at the speed limit and be safe, but where you need to actively scan and react constantly. In Portugal you need to pull to the side if someone coming toward you is overtaking, in India get off the road if a vehicle larger than you is overtaking someone coming toward you (everything is larger than a motorcycle) and in Northern Peru you need to ride slowly to avoid the veritable zoo of animals that play on the roads. We can argue that active driving is required everywhere, and it is, but in each jurisdiction we take for granted what others may be shocked at. Sheep on the road, continuous corners and fickle weather are classic NZ issues that we cope with and foreign travellers have to learn.

    Your example is an interesting one Colin. The best answer would be for you to turn on your video camera mounted in your visor and record the evidence. If you post that to a popular website along with your commentary then the driver and drivers like that will understand just how poor and dangerous their driving is. He does not need to be reported to the police, but he and his ilk do need to understand that poor and aggressive driving are a deadly combination. Your restraint is commendable, and similarly on the motorcycle I have learned that idiots like that are best left well ahead or well behind you.

  11. Colin says:

    Hi Lance,

    Thanks for your level headed response, you clearly have a Zen like approach to driving!!

    I guess we all have our issues with ‘other’ drivers. You appear to have a similar consideration as l do to other road users and dont drive around in a bubble zone.

    More than any other consistant driving infringement l see is total disregard to the 2 sec rule (4 secs in the wet). I get way more concerned if a driver is attached to my rear bumper than seeing him overtake and disappear ahead at 120 kph. Perhaps a rear facing video camera recording a time line of such dangerous driving? God knows what it must feel like for a motorcyclist.

    Incidentally, it is an offence l see the police commit as much as fellow road users.

  12. Ross says:

    Tom,

    You can download and print your own cards to leave on inconsideratey parked cars – see:

    http://www.mcclure411.com/pdf/park_cards.pdf and http://youparklikeanasshole.com/

  13. Zapatag.com says:

    Aloha! I’m building a site much like the one you’re describing. It’s U.S. focused now, but Canada’s in the works, and I don’t see why other countries can’t be added.

    A quick question: how are license plates issued in New Zealand? How many issuing localities or agencies are there? In the U.S. I have to support 50 plate setups, in Canada, 13. If New Zealand had a national license plate assignment system, that would be ideal… adding New Zealand would be a few lines of code!

    Thanks in advance, and good luck on your project!

    Ryan

  14. tom says:

    Cheers Ross, that’s great…

    And I’ve just spotted this too – http://www.iparklikeanidiot.com/
    they have a revenue model, too – not surprisingly, it’s run by the same people who run http://www.threadless.com, an e-commerce business i consider to be one of the best around.

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