The intriguing concept is simple: All fines exacted from speeding motorists are put into a pot, to be paid out to one law-abiding driver selected in a "lottery."
Here's how it works: A speed camera takes pictures of all drivers' license plates. Speeders are fined while the safe drivers' plates are compiled in a database, and a lucky law-abider is then selected to receive the total amount of the speeding fines.
Effectively, all drivers are "in it to win it."
That's the idea that blossomed into reality for its originator, Kevin Richardson, of San Francisco, who won a VW-sponsored competition earlier this year and saw his innovative theory played out on the streets of Stockholm, Sweden.
Richardson, a games designer and producer at Nickelodeon, told AOL Autos his inspiration was the safety of his three young daughters, and his horrifying personal experience of watching someone else's child get struck by a car on the way to school.
"You can't stop people from speeding," he said. "The real point is it makes you aware of your speed. Being aware of the law versus safety, it's more fun, like a game focused on the driver and less on police.
"If you are aware of a progressive slot machine, and that the prize amount is going up and up, that's an incentive. If 200 people are fined $100, that's a big pot."
While offering a financial incentive to drivers to keep their speeds low, the system's real ingenuity, Richardson says, is that it takes away any profit motive from speed-camera systems, at a time when some cities and municipalities are being criticized for their use of speed or red-light cameras because of the revenues they generate.
Richardson submitted his idea to VW and marketing agency DDB as part of their Fun Theory competition. Previous winners of the ideas contest include the now-famous "piano staircase" also in Stockholm, which encourages people to use stairs instead of escalators, a video of which went viral last year.
Michael Bugaj, at DDB, said: "The Fun Theory has managed to capture something that engages people, is fun and inspires people to join and create his or her own ideas.
"The reach is beyond what we ever imagined and we are thrilled that it is still growing and people continue to share it."
Could it actually work? David Haenel, a Florida traffic defense lawyer, said it was a very interesting and fun idea, but stopped short of endorsing it.
"Attaching a financial incentive to encourage people to do things is very interesting indeed," Haenel said. "I wonder if it would curb behavior, and it would depend how much is the check for.
"People who have to get to work on time might not think it's enough of an incentive."
Further arguments against the scheme include privacy issues and states or cities being involved in anything considered a lottery scheme. Richardson also believes that, in certain instances, speeding or red-light cameras can increase accident rates, such as rear-end collisions at busy intersections if drivers have slowed their speed significantly to avoid a ticket.
Many states, Haenel pointed out, like Florida have no speed-camera system in place.
But Richardson said it was great to see his idea actually put into practice. The short traffic experiment in Stockholm was overseen by the governmental Dept. of Traffic Safety and the winning prize of about $3000 USD was handed out to a lucky motorist. Richardson was flown to Stockholm to see the system working as part of his prize.
VW reported that the camera system caused average speeds to drop by about a quarter, from 32 kilometers an hour to 25, during the three-day test.
Richardson also seemed tickled to learn that Sweden often levies speeding fines in relation to an individual's income, which can result in fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars if, say, a millionaire is caught speeding.
"If a multi-millionaire gets fined, I'd like to win that money!" he said.