Using a mobile phone just once while driving distracts the average person for nearly a minute, data filtering through from the Discovery Insure Driving Challenge app suggests. That’s roughly a kilometre, around town. Measured by the app, the worst 20 % of drivers use their phones an average of three minutes a trip.
And, confirming what we probably suspected all along, it seems that using a cellphone while driving slows your thinking: Discovery says that it cuts parietal lobe activity in the brain 37 %.
According to the company, using a cellphone just once during a trip makes the driver four times more likely to have an accident en route. Data shows that although 40 % of drivers have hands-free kits, 4 out of every 5 calls they make do not use these kits.
Research indicates that as many as 9 out of 10 road accidents in South Africa are due to careless behaviour, says Discovery Insure CEO Anton Ossip. The company has committed itself to improving driver behaviour – and the app plays a big part in that. The idea behind the app is to modify driver behaviour via a combination of game play and social networking in what’s been dubbed behavioural economics. Immediate improvements have been noted, the company claims.
The app uses smartphones’ built-in motion and location sensors. Within the six weeks after its launch, 40 000 drivers downloaded it. Within two days poor drivers who couldn’t manage to break a 50 % ranking on Day 1 progressed to 20 % better. That’s all because they became aware of their behaviour on the roads, the company says. What’s more, the competitive/social networking element built in to the app doubled that progress for those with five or more “friends”.
The least distracted 20 % of drivers are reported to have 20 % fewer accidents than the average driver, and the accidents they are involved in are less severe. 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. And apparently it’s not only the worst phone hogs we should be worried about. About 1 in 4 drivers use their phones for less than 10 seconds a trip in what Discovery Insure calls “phone motion”.
According to the compay, if anything South Africa’s notoriously dangerous roads are becoming more deadly. Quoting the International Transport Forum’s 2013 Road Safety Annual Report, they say SA’s road accident rate is 32 per 100 000 people per year. What’s worse is that our fatality rate has increased by 64 % over the past ten years. Besides the human cost, there’s a considerable financial burden: R307 billion a year, representing between 8 % and 10 % of GDP.
The movement against Distracted Driving has drawn plenty of the attention in the US, too. Watch the campaign video above…