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Motor Insurance
Friday, September 5, 2014 - 02:16
Cell phone distraction

South Africa has one of the highest road accident rates in the world, and this is largely due to poor driver behaviour. Statistics in the International Transport Forum’s 2013 Road Safety Annual Report show that the country experiences 32 accidents per 100 000 people per year, and that the fatality rate has increased by 64% over the past ten years. The cost of this in human tragedy is incalculable, and the economic impact is a staggering R307 billion a year, representing between 8% and 10% of GDP.

“Discovery Insure has therefore set out to engage stakeholders countrywide in order to improve driver behaviour,” says the company’s CEO, Anton Ossip. “Research indicates that up to 90% of road accidents in South Africa are due to careless behaviour, so the solution is self-evident: we need to commit ourselves to becoming a nation of good drivers.”
Alcohol, speeding and distracted driving are the three biggest causes of road accidents in South Africa, with the use of cell phones while driving being one of the top causes of distraction. “It seems hardly believable that, despite legislation prohibiting it, two-thirds of drivers still use their cell phones while driving,” says Ossip. “Many of these actually attempt to text while driving and, even though 40% of drivers have hands-free kits, 80% of their calls are made without using them.”
Cell phone usage while driving has a real and calculable effect on driver competence, resulting in a 37% decrease in parietal lobe activity in the brain. Discovery Insure is therefore pioneering a behaviourally based model aimed at addressing road safety issues such as cell phone usage. The model is centred on the recently launched Discovery Insure Driving Challenge app, which has been specifically designed to help members and non-members alike become more competent and aware behind the wheel.
Data collected from users of the app shows that a single instance of mobile phone usage represents an average of 52 seconds of distracted driving. At 60km/h, this is equivalent to driving ‘blind’ for one kilometre, and makes the driver four times more likely to have an accident during that time. The data also shows that the worst 20% of drivers use their phones for an average of three minutes per trip, greatly increasing their chances of causing an accident.
On the other side of the coin, 27% of drivers use their phones for less than 10 seconds per trip, a period that Discovery Insure has dubbed ‘phone motion’. This indicates that there is room for behavioural modification when it comes to the use of cell phones while driving.
The importance of this cannot be overestimated, as the least distracted 20% of drivers have 20% fewer accidents than the average driver, and the accidents they are involved in are less severe. In contrast, the most distracted 20% of drivers have 27% more accidents than the average driver, and the accidents in which they are involved are more severe.
“One of the greatest difficulties in dealing with driver behaviour is that drivers consistently overestimate their competence, and also underestimate the risk to themselves and others of talking or texting while driving,” says Ossip. “This is where we hope the app will be a wake-up call for users.”
The app, which helps drivers to score their driving competency, was downloaded 40 000 times in the first six weeks after it was launched, and immediate shifts in behaviour were recorded. Users that scored below 50/100 on their first day improved by 20% over the next two days, simply by becoming more aware of their behaviour on the roads. And, on average, those with five friends or more on the app improved by double this percentage after five days.
The app is intended to improve driver behaviour by combining mobile technology and behavioural economics. As a further incentive, all users can win prizes based on improvements in their driving behaviour. Up for grabs are BP fuel vouchers worth R10 000 weekly, as well as a trip for four to the 2015 Grand Prix in Monaco.
“Discovery is known for its innovative approach to difficult challenges,” says Ossip, “and we believe the Discovery Insure Driver Challenge is yet another innovation that will make a real difference in the lives of ordinary South Africans. We invite everyone to download the app and to take up the challenge of becoming a nation of excellent drivers.”
The Discovery Insure Driving Challenge app can be downloaded on App Store or Google Play Store – for both Discovery Insure and non-Discovery Insure clients. For further information about Discovery and Discovery Insure, visit www.discovery.co.za.
 

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:27.9 1st September, 2014
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