Using Telematics to Improve Driver Safety

happy woman driver driving her car

Improving Driver Behavior

Improving road safety starts first with improving drivers’ behavior. According to multiple studies, human error, in part or in whole, contributes to upward of 90 percent of all vehicle accidents. And yet, it has been notoriously difficult to sustainably improve driver behavior because, in general, drivers do not really know if they are good or poor drivers. According to the Association for Psychological Science, most people think they are above average, with drivers rating themselves a seven out of ten on driving ability. While vehicle design has improved, causing a downward trend in the percentage of crashes resulting in death, increases in risky driving behaviors such as texting, speeding, and impaired driving are on the rise.

There is no silver bullet for improving driver safety, but telematics can have a significant and long-term impact on driver behavior. In a study by the Insurance Research Council, 56 percent of participating drivers say they made changes in how they drive after installing a telematics device. Another study found that safe driving increased by as much as 30 percent with the use of a telematics app.

So exactly how can telematics improve driver behavior?

  • Provide short- and long-term feedback on driver behavior: Immediate alerts, daily reports, and driver scoring provide feedback to telematics users, allowing drivers to understand how their driving habits impact safety, and respond accordingly. Immediate feedback helps drivers change their behavior, while trend reports and driver scoring help reinforce behavior change and improve habits over the long term.
  • Incentivizing safe driving: Insurance discounts offered for safe driving incentivize improved behavior, helping to reinforce gains made in safety. Gamification flips the focus of driver improvement from reactive feedback to proactive. By incentivizing drivers toward safer behavior – whether the incentive is a coupon, reward, or digital badge – telematics can help people drive safer immediately, without the need to wait for a critique of poor driving.
  • Reducing distracted driving: According to AT&T, 70 percent of drivers use their smartphones while driving. In addition, 64 percent of all road accidents in the United States involve cell phone use. Telematics-driven mobile apps can identify when someone is driving and restrict inbound texts, calls, or other cellphone behavior to reduce distracted driving. Telematics devices can also detect the symptoms of distracted driving, highlight these events to the driver, and provide awareness of the impact of this behavior.

Reducing accidents needs to start with improving driver safety, and telematics-driven programs have been shown to do so.

Improving Vehicle Safety

Drivers have a responsibility for the safety and maintenance of their vehicle. While driver behavior is by far the most common cause of vehicle crashes, vehicle health and maintenance can also be a major contributing factor. For accidents in which a vehicle-related issue causes the crash, tire or wheel-related issues are the largest cause of accidents, followed by brake problems as well as steering, suspension, transmission, and engine-related issues. Annual inspections help drivers maintain their vehicles, but a lot can happen in between mandated professional inspections. A leave-in telematics model can be critical between inspections, as OBD-II devices can read and interpret diagnostic trouble codes, provide solutions to drivers, and ensure their vehicle is safe. In addition, using contextual driving data, telematics services can anticipate required maintenance and help ensure issues are addressed before they cause problems. Better-maintained vehicles lead to better drivers and safer roads.

Improving the Driving Environment

The condition of the environment in which someone is driving, particularly infrastructure, traffic flow, and road conditions, is as important to safety as is the condition of their vehicle. Local and state governments have the ability to improve infrastructure, but doing so requires the collection and analysis of vast amounts of data. According to Together for Safer Roads, a consortium of private companies dedicated to improve road safety, the infrastructure to do so at a global level is completely inadequate today. Data on road repair, traffic flow, and accidents exist, but often without context. Telematics provides this context, by overlaying it with driver behavior. Understanding how drivers respond to road and traffic conditions allows urban planners, civil engineers, and traffic planners to make improvements that take human factors into account. When it comes to prioritizing road repairs and new infrastructure, cities can draw insights from traffic and telematics data to choose projects with the greatest road safety impacts. Telematics data is useful broadly for the digitalization of city infrastructures, feeding systems that optimize traffic flow, optimize routes for emergency response vehicles, and better inform commuters about their drive.

Improving Driver Safety

No matter how safe the driver, accidents do occur. Vehicle design has done a lot to curb fatalities, but still more can be done to ensure drivers get the help they need during an event. Insurance companies are turning to telematics to help them become proactive partners during a crash.

The Benefits of Telematics for Policyholders [infographic]

Advanced telematics solutions analyze vehicle motion characteristics such as surge, sway, heave, yaw, pitch, and roll to determine if an accident has occurred and to identify the severity of the crash. If an accident has occurred, for example, Octo can notify the required parties in real time, allowing the insurer to follow up with the policyholder to determine if emergency services are required, and to immediately begin the claim process if needed. Time and location data can then be fed to emergency service providers, reducing urban emergency response time by up to 40 percent and rural response time by 50 percent. While the United States does not have a required emergency call system in place, or planned, insurers can take the place of this system through automated first notice of loss (FNOL) systems. Insurance companies need to evolve their customer value proposition. Safety and security is one of the top-rated telematics features in North America and the right crash services can put a caring human face on your insurance company.

Driver safety technology has seen significant growth in the last decade with the introduction of forward-crash prevention systems, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and electronic stability control. Most vehicles going to market today employ some level of driver safety system designed to intervene and protect drivers from an accident. OEMs have also been steadily adding telematics and crash notification services, but the high cost of these services to the consumer discourages vehicle owners from having a service that could save their lives. This is a major opportunity insurers can leverage to change the way they interact with policyholders.

Getting Insurers Involved

With embedded telematics becoming the norm, the amount of behavioral driving data available will grow exponentially over the next decade. At the smallest scale, this data can be used to improve driver behavior and vehicle health. At a massive scale, big data analytics will be able to optimize vehicle safety technology and design, improve road conditions and design, and ensure driver safety. Insurers are poised to take advantage of all this data to change the insurer-to-policyholder paradigm, and help to improve driver safety, while simultaneously improving their own business outcomes.

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