MPR News  for Headlines, Weather, and Stories Dale Connelly Reporting Home
Dale Connelly Reporting
Dale Connelly Reporting
Return to Dale Connelly Reporting show index

There's more from Dale Connelly at The Morning Show


by Wendy Vapors, 5/12/00

Dc: This is DCR, a news program that's reality free.
This week's encouraging news about the drop in serious crime calls attention to new methods of law enforcement … some controversial, like racial profiling, and others not, like "community policing."
And now … a new approach to traffic law enforcement is also gaining attention and favor. Wendy Vapors reports.

(sfx: police siren)

Wendy: It's mid morning on the freeway, and State Trooper George Preston has just pulled over his tenth motorist in the last hour. He stops his cruiser behind and just a little to the left of the civilian, and looks in the rear view mirror for a moment to adjust his hat.

Preston: Look OK? Good enough. Now for my favorite part of the job.

(sfx: car door opens, closes)
(sfx: traffic whizzing by)

Wendy: As Trooper Preston approaches, the motorist is visibly shaken, but he needn't be. He will long remember the events that are about to unfold.

Preston: Morning, sir.

Driver 1: Good morning, officer. Is there some kind of problem?

Preston: Problem?

Driver 1: (babbling) I can't think of what I did wrong … but you pulled me over so … there must be a problem, right? Was it my speed?
I know I wasn't speeding. I don't think I was.

Preston: It's not speeding.

Driver 1: Was it something about the lane change?

Preston: You know, it WAS the lane change. I happened to be right behind you when you did that, and am I glad!

Driver 1: But I signaled. Didn't I?

Preston: You signaled AND you looked over your shoulder to make sure the lane was clear of traffic. It was like watching a textbook.

Driver 1: Then what's the …?

Preston: I am just so impressed with your driving!

(sfx: rustle of envelopes)

I'd like to give you a wonderful dinner for two at Harry Heifer's Steak House!

Driver 1: I beg your pardon?

Preston: Dinner for two! Take the coupon. It's good anytime. Tell Harry Trooper Preston sent you.

Driver 1: You're giving me a coupon for dinner at a steakhouse?

Preston: Are you a vegetarian? Would you rather have a blender?

(sfx: traffic fade)

Wendy: What Trooper Preston was doing is part of a new approach in traffic law … the notion of positive reinforcement.
Ellen Elmo is president of SCREECH. The Serious Citizens Resolved to Enable and Effectively Change Highways.

Ellen: I volunteered at my daughter's elementary school last year and I saw how quickly kids respond to little rewards for good behavior, so I said, "hey, why don't we try this on the highway?" Heaven knows punishment isn't getting the results we want. So I started to work for a simple change.

Wendy: And one person was able to do this?

Ellen: It's amazing what one person can do, when people really, really want you out of their office.

Wendy: And thus was born the experimental "Highway Prize Police." It's a program that is both ambitious in it's goals and simple in it's approach.
State Patrol Chief Mark Winkindale explains.

Mark: The cars have stayed the same. The trooper's uniforms haven't changed. But what the officer does when pulling over a civilian is now entirely different. How he reacts has changed. Most of my troopers like this a whole lot more, cause nobody wants to be the bully. Everyone wants to be loved. Let's listen to a routine stop.

(sfx: traffic)

Preston: May I see your license, sir?

Driver 2: Sure. Here it is.

Mark: This part is pretty standard.

Preston: Whoops. You accidentally got it wrapped up in a hundred dollar bill! Here you go.

Driver 2: Did I? Gee! Thanks for catching that.

Mark: In the old days, this would have been grounds for a citation.

Wendy: Attempted bribery?

Mark: Right.

Preston: And I see the picture's been cut out of your driver's license.

Driver 2: Oh, that. I … uh … had plastic surgery and I'm getting the photo re-done to match … uh … how I look today.

Mark: That's another law broken there.

Wendy: There's a law against lame excuses?

Mark: Right. But we're not gonna focus on that. We're trying to keep it positive. The outcome of the stop should be that the driver goes away thinking that it feels good to obey the law. Listen to how it plays out.

Driver 2: You're not gonna hold that against me, are you officer?

Preston: The reason I stopped you sir, is that I really liked the way you were leaving a safe interval between yourself and the car ahead of you. A lot of people don't do that today, so I notice it when I see someone who understands.
So that's why I want to give YOU a hundred dollar bill.

Driver 2: You're kidding me.

Preston: As a way of congratulating you on a job well done. And you can pocket that. It's yours.

Driver 2: Am I on Candid Camera?

(sfx: traffic out)

Wendy: Wow, I wish that trooper would stop ME!

Ellen: Of course you do. If you look at the psychology of it, it makes a lot of sense.
You say to people "Let me catch you doing wrong and you'll pay for it …" and most people will believe they can get away with something.
If you say "Let me catch you doing something RIGHT and you could get a prize … " and most people will believe … "yes, I can win!"

Wendy: Even though the odds are the same either way?

Ellen: Hope springs eternal. What do you think keeps the lottery in business?

(sfx: traffic under Wendy)

Wendy: It remains to be seen if the overall effect of the "Highway Prize Police" will be to improve driving skills. But you have to admit the idea that you could get some really nice stuff just for obeying the law has it's attraction. My grandmother used to say that "good behavior is it's own reward," and while that may still possibly be true, out on the highway it is clearly no longer enough.

Preston: Well, maam, I'm pleased to be able to tell you that thanks to your careful and safe use of the on ramp today, you've won a new washer dryer!

Wendy: I'm Wendy Vapors, and I'm reporting.

(sfx: traffic out)

Dale Connelly Reporting Home


Minnesota Public Radio Home     Search     Email  
© Copyright 2000 | Terms of Use  |  Privacy