Sunday, October 07, 2012

Prepaid Traffic Fine Card

The problem we are going to solve today is the corruption in the traffic police. It is obvious that given the circumstances corruption is the best strategy for both police and people.

  • Let's say traffic light jump is fined at Rs 200. If a corrupt policemen charges Rs 199, it is good deal for both the driver and the policemen. Because people are not just rational but emotional too, a fair deal will probably happen around Rs 100. 
  • This means that if fines are 0, their will be no corruption. The reason fine is not 0 is that our objective as a society is not just reduction of corruption, but:
    • As less travel time as possible 
    • Less and less accidents 
The problem is it is was hard to measure these things when traffic rules were invented. Accidents are not too hard to count, travel time across all people shouldn't be so difficult given mobile phones and GPS.  Traffic police has no incentive to solve these problems. So lets leave these things aside and just concentrate on the corruption part. 

Lets define the Prepaid Traffic Fine card. Basically drivers can buy such a card with various denominations. It could be a coupon booklet like sodexo. Lets say everyone knows their own driving style, so they know what kind of "crimes" they are likely to commit and how much they end up paying to corrupt cops. Now when I say crime, I don't mean running over people. Just the soft variety like may be 10% over the speed limit or 20% over the speed limit. Jumping a red-light by 2-3 seconds etc. Or may be 10%-20% over the alcohol limit. 

Whenever a driver is fined, he can pay his fine using this booklet. The other condition is that this booklet just like sodexo expires after a year. Now:
  • Driver should always pay using the booklet because he already paid for it. 
  • This money is already with the government, so nothing goes to the corrupt police guy. 
Few more cases arise.
People either underestimate or overestimate their "fine budget". If they overestimate, they have incentive to always pay using the booklet because any money they give to the traffic police guy will overshoot their "budget". If people underestimate or don't care to buy the booklet, the usual scenario applies which means government gets 0 and corrupt police guy and the driver share 50% each of the fine amount. Now lets assume that we give some discount on this booklet. 10% should be easy because government can earn 10% interest in one year with this amount. The more "interesting" or "value for money" government can make this "offer", the incentive for corruption reduces by the similar amount. For example, 50% discount means that the driver has no incentive not to buy it because that is the maximum he gets by sharing the profit with the corrupt police guy. Which means the corrupt police guy now has to ask for 25%, giving 75% to the driver. 

I think at some point, the convenience of the time saved in bargaining, social pressure, some sense of dignity, investing in the future would make this converge at much lower discount levels. So here we have the solution to the corruption by traffic police. In the super rational humans case government need to give 100% discount. In case humans act like humans, government gets money, humans get peace of mind and corrupt traffic police 0.  This fund can be used to give education to children of traffic police, bonuses, construction of roads, better technology to monitor and manage traffic, something sensible. Using average of Rs 500 per two wheeler and Rs 2000 per 4 wheeler, Bangalore traffic police will have about Rs 370 crores to work with per year.

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