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Smiley Praise has to be earned – even in traffic!

Everybody likes praises – they like them at school, when they know an answer to a difficult question, they like them at home, when they do something helpful and they like them at work, when the supervisor praises their good work. And these praises support their motivation not even at work, school or at home, but also in other situations like relationships or traffic. Where do we find praises in traffic and why are they so significantly important to us? This little essay will address this topic and clarify the noticeable relation between infrastructure, cars and the behavior of drivers.


Maybe you have noticed them already. They stand at roadsides mainly in villages and towns. It’s not that easy to ignore them because of their colorful display, but despite everything most of drivers don’t respect them. I’m talking about dialogue-displays. If you for example drive below the given speed limit in villages the display shows you your speed but also a green smiling face (also known as smileys). When you exceed speed limits there’s a red sad face instead of a smiling one. These two faces are supposed on the one hand to control your speed and in the best-case to animate you to ease up on the accelerator and on the other hand to praises your driving attitude. The question is “Do the dialogue-displays serve this purpose or do they annoy drivers ?” In Germany, dialogue-displays exist since several years. The opinions about them are still split – citizens and state both have convincing arguments why they work good or why they are just a waste of money. I want to show the positive site of the dialogue-displays. What are their advantages and why could they safe lives in traffic? As the name indicates, there has to be a dialogue. The dialogue is between the driver and the display, that’s clear. How does it communicate with the driver? It’s simple. If you drive below the speed limit of 50 km/h in a German village, the display shows a green smiling face. Vice versa, when you speed up above 50km/h, you will see a red sad face. Psychologists of traffic think that they are a good possibility to stop the irresponsible attitude of speed merchants and remind them of the traffic regulation. An advantage of the dialogue-displays is obviously the incentive of rewarding. The little green smiley also makes you smile and maybe a little proud of yourself because you stuck by the rules. This way of thinking is that important because in traffic there is not often a positive reaction. I mean, you and I, we both know the struggle with warnings, penalties and penalty points on the license. But nobody praises you when you do something right in traffic, don’t they? The little green smiley at the road side does it. For that reason, it is so significant to communicate with the drivers and inform them to ease up on the accelerator when it is said by road signs. Another advantage is the fact that there is no money involved, nobody wants to earn with them. That’s the subtle difference between the funny dialogue-displays and the well-known speed cameras. It is believed, that the consciousness of traffic is simply strengthen by the principle of praise and reprimand. In fact, at the end “Nationwide investigations have shown that dialogue-displays can lower the exceeding of speed about 40 to 60 percent.” – THIS CAN SAVE LIVES!


Some say that the revolution of dialogue-displays contributes to the road safety training. I also think that these smileys are a good communicator for our young drivers. In the digital age, it’s not possible to imagine communication without smileys. We find them everywhere – in emails, in instant messengers and on the internet. So please think about what I told you in this essay and smile back the next time you see a little green smiley at the road side!smile


Yours sincerely,


A student of the University of Siegen

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