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‘Canada’s Safest Driver’ contest finds behavior gains expire — but worst drivers stay improved

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Canadian safety charity Parachute on Tuesday announced an inaugural telematics competition to find “Canada’s Safety Driver” produced sustained improvement in the riskiest competitors.

But the majority of competitors “returned to their old habits by contest end, notably in the measures of aggressive driving (speeding and acceleration) as well as phone distraction,” according to Parachute.

Parachute said 582 Canadians competed in the contest between Oct. 1-Nov. 26, 2020, by permitting the “Canada’s Safest Driver” app from Cambridge Mobile Telematics to watch their driving. (Embedded sensors like accelerometers are of sufficient quality that your smartphone can act like an in-vehicle telematics device.) The contest tracked their acceleration, braking, cornering, phone usage and speed, using the first three days of the 56-day contest to calculate baseline behavior.

“During the first few days, risk factors were reduced by 13 per cent, but by day 28 this dropped to three per cent. By day 56, participants returned to pre-contest risk levels,” Parachute wrote in a news release.

“… Speeding and harsh acceleration were the biggest risks during the contest with an 11-per-cent and six-per-cent increase respectively. Phone distractions saw a 30-per-cent decrease during the beginning of the contest but ended with a five-per-cent increase by day 56.”

Julian Piccioli of Ottawa, Canada, won $10,000 for being “Canada’s Safest Driver.” He also won a $500 Early Bird Prize for the best score in the first two weeks and a “smooth braking” prize for his performance between Nov. 12-26, 2020.

“In order to score high in all the categories measured, the main theme for me was being a proactive driver rather than reactive one,” Piccioli said in a statement. “By not being distracted, by not speeding, by focusing on handling the vehicle, it allowed me to focus my attention on the driving task itself more than I had, before. I recognized where I was taking risks, before, that I didn’t need to.”

Even though the population on the whole ended the contest driving just as they did at the start, the overall results reported Tuesday still show the potential for telematics-based insurance and driver coaching to curtail crash volume.

Most importantly, the really bad drivers stayed better.

“A positive exception was for the highest-risk drivers who scored in the bottom 25 per cent who showed significant driving behaviour improvements for the duration of the contest with an overall 30 per cent decrease in risky driving behaviour,” Parachute wrote.

And even if the gains for the typical driver didn’t last, the competition still produced improvement for a little while. The drivers still spent 28  days driving better than they normally would. Theoretically, the odds of those 582 motorists producing wrecks for Canadian shops to fix dropped during that time. A down month isn’t a state for a small business owner, even if the rest of the year sees normal volume.

The persistent reinforcement and “skin in the game” of an usage-based insurance policy constantly adjusting rates — such as Allstate’s Milewise, which updates weekly based on driver skill — might produce better results than this elective contest. After all, your actions in the former will definitely raise or lower your expenses, while the latter carries no guarantee you’ll be the winner.

“From the contest results, we see that when drivers pay attention, they are able to be better, safer drivers,” Parachute CEO Pamela Fuselli said in a statement. “They slow down, focus their attention on the road and on their driving skills. We want to motivate people to continue these improved behaviours, even when they aren’t competing for prize money.”

“It is great to see drivers rewarded for driving safely and for doing their part to keep themselves and others safe on our roads,” Valérie Lavoie, chief operating officer of contest sponsor Desjardines Insurance, said in a statement. “But we must be vigilant when it comes to road safety. In order to adopt and sustain safe driving habits, we must continue to educate, raise awareness and encourage drivers to put down their phones, slow down and stay focused on our roads.”

More information:

Parachute, Jan. 19, 2021

“Canada’s Safest Driver” webpage

Parachute, 2020

Featured image: The “Canada’s Safest Driver” logo is shown. (Provided by Parachute)

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