Consequences Have Value – but only if they are preceived and imposed

In studying why embezzlements and similar crimes seem to be growing in both size and frequency, I have been looking for other societal indicators to see if the problem is bigger than simply thieving individuals rationalizing their thefts.

One indicator of society I have been monitoring over the last few months is motorists’ compliance with red light traffic signals.  The law is clear on signal controlled intersections.  Green light allows the motorist to pass through the intersection, yellow light cautions the motorist to safely clear out of the intersection in preparation of a red light, and red light directs the motorist to completely stop and not enter the intersection.

Every motorist knows there are not enough police to staff and monitor each and every controlled intersection, but not knowing when and where the police are monitoring creates both a deterrent as well as allows for compliance monitoring.  The consequence if caught running the red light could be a warning or fine, or a collision with another motorist.  Hence there is an expectation that motorists will stop when the signal is red, and not enter the intersection when the signal is yellow.

Unfortunately, if motorist compliance with red traffic signals are any indication of society’s overall respect and compliance to the laws, we are in big trouble.  Not a day went by over the last few months where I didn’t watch a motorist (often several motorists) not only enter the intersection on yellow lights, but completely blow through the intersection after their light had turned completely red, endangering every other motorist at the intersection.  In 100% of the times I observed this, the motorist simply kept their head down or looked straight ahead, not caring about the reaction or position of any other motorist.   Close to every day I observed a near miss where I, or the car in front of me, was nearly impacted by the motorist running their red light.

A more problematic observation of our society was observed the other night when I watched a police officer at a light.  The officer directly across from me watched a car run the red light and drive at regular speed right through the intersection, right in front of his police cruiser.  I thought I would see consequences in action, as the officer clearly saw what I saw, complete disregard for the law and the safety of every other motorist at the intersection.  However, I was sadly disappointed when the officer simply waited for his green signal and went the other way.  I suggest this is why so many motorists disregard the law, and the safety of everyone else on the road.  It is genuinely a “me” society.

My advice for every motorist is to wait for a green signal, count to five, and then proceed, as it is highly likely another motorist with a red signal will use the five seconds to drive recklessly through the intersection just when you think it is safe to proceed.  My prediction is when this approach is adopted in mass, more drivers will run red lights because they will know they have the extra five seconds after their red signal to get through the intersection, against their red signal.

That evolution leading to an increase in more deviant behavior, coupled with the acceptance to the new “norm”,  is analogous to what I see happening with employee embezzlements.  The more individuals that chose to steal and receive next to no punishment, likely has led to more individuals deciding they can solve their financial issues or live beyond their means by stealing others’ money with the perception (or perhaps even the reality) of receiving little to no consequences of any substance.

Does anyone have a suggestion on how to turn these trends and society around?

To those of us who still care, I found this quote enlightening:

“Millions of people. Everyone out for themselves. Can this really be the only way? No. Here’s to honor, and to gallantry, long may it live. Here’s to doing the right thing. To giving a damn. Here’s to the straight-talkers, who give their word, and keep it. Here’s to freedom, wherever you find it, and to knowing the true meaning of wealth. Here’s to the brave among us. Here’s to a code of behavior that sets certain men (and women) apart from all others. Here’s to us. Live with Chivalry.”

14 thoughts on “Consequences Have Value – but only if they are preceived and imposed”

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