DUBAI // Traffic experts hope a scheme that rewards good drivers instead of punishing bad ones can succeed where other road-safety campaigns have failed.
Under the White Points scheme launched by Dubai Police last week, drivers in the emirate will be awarded a point for every month they keep a clean sheet of either traffic or Salik fines.
After 12 months they can exchange them for gift vouchers or use them to cancel black points accrued before or after the clean sheet.
It is hoped this positive approach will have more of an effect on driver behaviour than schemes targeting bad driving. While safe drivers will have a reason to continue their good habits, less safe drivers will be motivated by the potential rewards of changing their ways.
Britta Lang, a principal traffic psychologist at the Transport Research Laboratory in Abu Dhabi, said the white point scheme was a "positive and new approach".
"Positive rewards have more sustainability in changing driving behaviour," Mrs Lang said. "I do not think this has been implemented anywhere else in the world."
She is advising the authorities to combine the scheme with an educational campaign, but also warned that for the system to work, care must be taken over the extent of the rewards.
"The devil is in the details," she said. "One should be careful which kind of violations can be deleted."
Motorists can also use white points to cancel traffic fines handed out after their clean sheet, provided the offence did not also result in a black point.
Drivers who have accumulated 24 black points from one severe traffic offence will not be allowed to collect any white points for a year.
Davis Francis, 25, a marketing officer, could be among the motorists receiving a message of congratulations on January 13 - the scheme has been backdated and will reward all drivers who have been fine-free during 2012.
Mr Francis, who lives and works in Dubai, has not acquired a single traffic fine since gaining his licence eight years ago.
"When I started driving I was scared of acquiring fines or black points and then I kind of got into the habit of being responsible," he said. "The [scheme] will make people more responsible and it will encourage them to drive more safely."
Naser Al Dahmani, 33, an aviation engineer who amassed Dh25,000 in fines this year, said: "Instead of handing out fines to people or providing rewards to those who are already committed to road safety, the traffic department should concentrate on those with bad traffic records and try to understand their mistakes, solving them through education and rewarding them for any improvement they make."
Varkki Pallathucheril, a professor of urban planning at the American University of Sharjah's College of Architecture and Design, agreed that rewards were needed for any scheme to work.
"[But] I am not sure exchanging white points with black points is a good solution," he said. "If people accumulate enough white points it may be an incentive to carry out certain offences as they know that they can waive it off."
Mr Francis echoed this view. "There's a possibility I'll be less responsible when in a hurry if I knew I could take away black points."