11 Jun 2015

Cowboys vs cameras

Maybe "Race & Waste" ?
The Dutch government issued 6.7 million speeding tickets in 2014. Numbers are hard to find for US states, but Wisconsin police issued 156,000 tickets in 2013. See the big difference in numbers? Adjusting for population (16.8 million in NL; 5.8 mil in WI), we see that the Dutch issue speeding tickets at 14x the rate of Wisconsin police.

Why the difference? The Dutch use speed cameras, and the WI police "chase down the bad guys."

What's another difference? The Dutch are far more likely to obey laws (total tickets dropped from 10.3 million in 2013 to 8.3 million in 2014), due to the high risk of getting caught. They are rolling out "safety cameras" at dangerous intersections.

Bottom Line: Enforce laws as effectively as possible. It's worth retiring cowboys adrenalin junkie cops if you get more safety at a lower cost.


  1. That’s an amazing statistic that more than one in three Dutch people get speeding tickets each year!!

    And this is law abiding??

    1. It is when you consider the denominator (instances of breaking the law)...

      If you get caught 1 in 100 in the US but 14 in 20 in NL, then the Dutch are law abiders :)

  2. This seems to me to be a bit of a hasty conclusion; is there enough evidence to reject the alternative hypothesis that the Dutch over-enforce the law (even despite using more productive technology)? I'm open to the possibility that this is efficient policing due to improved technological production possibilities of photos over cops, but...

    "Enforce laws as effectively as possible."

    ...is a bit of a red flag. Remember Becker's Crime and Punishment! If anything, my intuition would be that traffic violations are enforced above the optimal level in much of the US, as police departments see tickets see them as cash cows.

    I remember they actually ripped out the intersection cameras in San Diego a while back because the City had illegally set them to capture license plate photos during the end parts of yellow lights!

    1. Becker said "expected" probability of getting a ticket. The fact that 99% of people exceed the speed limit should tell you that's pretty low at law breaking speeds. I disagree on speeding tickets as cash cows (vs asset seizure), BUT you're right that they are easier than policing bad driving or -- perish the thought -- solving violent crimes...

  3. Awesome. And when they aren't monitoring traffic those cameras can be used as projectors so that we can all watch the Two Minutes Hate together.

  4. Considering that there are many people without a car, it makes clear that most drivers are dangerous. Considering that probably not all drivers have been issued tickets, many drivers have more than one ticket, and should be taken off the road.

    1. Well, WI had 498 fatalities in 2014 (in 119k crashes). NL had 570 deaths. Adjusting for population, WI (with NL population) would have 1416 deaths, i.e., >2x the Dutch rate. Maybe we should control for drivers, BUT the NL gov't has a policy of reducing driving FOR SAFETY PURPOSES, which seems to work...



Read this first!

Make sure you copy your comment before submitting because sometimes the system will malfunction and you will lose your comment.

Spam will be deleted.

Comments on older posts must be approved (do not submit twice).

If you're having problems posting, email your comment to me