Earlier this week, the National Safety Council released its traffic fatality estimates for 2016. The numbers are staggering: over 40,000 people died in accidents involving motor vehicles in 2016. That represents a 6 percent rise from 2015, which, when compounded with the previous year’s increase, results in the largest two-year increase -14 percent–in over 50 years.
Vehicles are notably not to blame–cars have adopted all sorts of new safety features in the past half-decade. Rather, as Debby Herdsman, president and CEO of NSC, pointed out in a news conference on the subject, human error is still at the nexus of this issue. In fact, 94 percent of accidents are caused by human error. The primary culprits are: drunk driving, driving above the speed limit and –our focus here at TrueMotion–distracted driving.
So if we know drivers are the culprits, why are we still committing errors? There is a very simple answer to that question (underlined nicely by this NPR feature): unless people feel that they are directly affected by the issue, they won’t feel motivated to fix it.
So motivation is the key. Which creates the next challenge: how do we increase the motivation to drive safely? One way to increase motivation is through greater enforcement of the laws that limit the behaviors that are the culprits. Another way is to provide encouragement and awareness–yet, as the New York Times points out, hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on campaigns to make the public aware of the dangers of drunken and distracted driving and yet the number of fatalities are still on the rise.
We here at TrueMotion are taking a different approach to increase motivation–we are providing additional incentives. We are working with insurance companies (Progressive Insurance, for example) to incorporate distracted driving into usage-based insurance programs. Eventually that will mean the safer you are as a driver, the lower your insurance rates. That is an added economic incentive to pay attention to the road. For our TrueMotion Family app, meanwhile, users get to see the scores of their friends and families. So there is an added social incentive to pay attention to the road. And we have more coming.
The true tragedy of the NSC stats is the number of deaths that could have been avoided had the drivers been properly motivated to drive more safely. Clearly the forms of motivation that have been leveraged thus far are not enough. We here at TrueMotion are working hard to supplement with other incentives and to bring the number of unnecessary deaths down to zero. Stay tuned.