As the U.S. observes this year’s National Teen Driver Safety Week, we have some promising news to share: it looks like all teen drivers might not be quite as risky as we thought. Over the past four weeks, 80 Sharon High School students have been participating in the very first TrueMotion Driver Challenge. Drivers (a mix of juniors and seniors) downloaded TrueMotion’s mobile app to track each trip they took behind the wheel, vying for a slew of teen-approved prizes that were to be awarded to the safest drivers. The results are in. The teens, in fact, performed far better in overall driving and in avoiding distractions behind the wheel than the national average, countering the wide-ranging perception that all teens are a greater risk when on the roads.
As you know well if you follow this blog, TrueMotion’s mobile app tracks, analyzes and scores each trip taken behind the wheel, using sensors in the phone and other data. The app then assigns an overall safe driving score (which reflects speed, hard braking and time of day) and a distraction score (which reflects phone or app use while driving). For this particular challenge, Sharon High’s teens logged a combined 3,300 trips for a total of 19,000 miles behind the wheel.
Nearly 30 percent of participants attained a perfect overall score of 100, while 75 percent of them scored above 90, meaning that the vast majority of these drivers hardly, if ever, drive distracted or at unsafe speeds.
The goal of the competition was two-fold: to increase the overall awareness of distracted driving and to see if participants would change their behavior in response to incentives. The results would indicate that teens have the capacity to be safe drivers, but that proper incentives combined with increased awareness are key to realizing that potential.
In order to learn more about those incentives (and to see if the results could be replicated), we surveyed the participants. Nearly 40 percent of respondents said they somewhat or significantly reduced how much time they spend on their phone, while 42 percent said they completely eliminated phone use while driving. Nearly 75 percent said that they are now more aware of distracted driving and will commit to do less of it, while 77 percent said they are more aware of their overall driving behaviors and will work to improve.
These results of course do not belie the fact that teen distracted driving remains a big issue. Car crashes are still the number one killer of teens nationwide. But it shows that there is hope for decreasing that risk—the goal is to replicate these results at high schools across the country. It is also a significant step forward in obtaining accurate data on driving habits. Many studies have found distraction and other unsafe behaviors to be prevalent among teens, but TrueMotion is believed to be the first to measure actual teen driving behavior by tracking activity on a phone.
In short, the more that we understand about driving habits, the more accurately we can respond and the more effectively we can reduce unsafe driving behavior. This Challenge has been a big step in the right direction.
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