Defeating distracted driving offers parents and new driver’s greater peace of mind

By Jonathan Lewarne, Senior Director, Insurance Business Development at TransUnion

There can be no doubt that avoidable car accidents have become a considerable problem on our roads, with efforts being made every year to reduce fatalities. However, driving under the influence, speeding and un-roadworthy vehicles aren’t the only culprits, so too is an increasingly common side effect of living in the digital age – distracted driving.

Indeed, it is suspected that up to a quarter of accidents in South Africa are caused by drivers glancing at their smart devices when their attention should rather be on the road. It is due to the fact that constant smartphone use has become part of the fabric of everyday life, particularly for millennials, who check their phone once every ten seconds, while those belonging to Generation X (born between 1961 and 1981) look at their smart device once every six minutes.

This is particularly relevant when you consider that new drivers, typically young adults or teenagers just learning to drive, account for one of the highest car accident rates. Making distracted driving insidious as well as dangerous is the fact that it is more socially acceptable than driving under the influence, and thus less likely to be actively deterred.

The silver lining is that there is a technology, developed by Cellcontrol, which offers a myriad of benefits across the board. The first of these is providing parents of new drivers with greater peace of mind that their children are safer when operating a car. More specifically, Cellcontrol’s DriveID technology, which is available for Android and iOS devices from, offers a means to give parents visibility of their children’s driving habits while they are learning to drive, and could foster conversations about safe driving in general. The solution was born out a partnership between TransUnion and Cellcontrol, a leader in distracted driving prevention and usage-based insurance data collection, as the two companies announced at TransUnion’s Insurance Summit last year that they would join forces to combat distracted driving.

Benefits for all

Managing cellular use via DriveID also has application for experienced drivers, providing them with a way to optimise driving habits so as to reduce petrol consumption and save money by mitigating general wear and tear on their vehicle.

Accident prevention and cost savings are not the only impetus. For new and experienced drivers alike, the variety of road construction currently underway in South Africa only makes a stronger case for having more aware drivers who are able to adapt to sudden road changes such as lane closures.

Considering that smart devices are prolific and residents still rely heavily on either their own vehicles to traverse many of South Africa’s cities, rather than an extensive subway system as found in London and New York, finding the balance between driving and using technology responsibly only becomes more vital.

Change is afoot

Thankfully, bad driving habits are not cast in stone, as controlling cellular usage can assist in fostering safer driving habits for new and veteran drivers alike, which in time can become second nature. Additionally, it enables opportunities for better risk management by implementing gamification, turning good driving into a ‘game’, with either passive rewards (ascending a competitive leaderboard) or active ones, such as reduced rates on one’s car insurance, while simultaneously fostering ongoing engagement with users.

Combining this with more efficient driving habits offers a holistic way to reduce the costs of owning and operating a vehicle, which only becomes more relevant as consumers battle with rising prices and an increasing cost of living. Rather than foregoing one’s insurance, a more viable alternative is to concentrate on reducing avoidable expenses, such as a car accident.

Ideally, it would not just be new and existing users of personal vehicles that make a concerted effort to reduce distracted driving, but transport companies that own commercial vehicles and fleets of trucks as well. In the US, accidents were found to be reduced by a third in a single year as transport companies made efforts for safer driving practices.

Tried and tested methods

Admittedly, a shock approach to the perils of distracted driving, namely through advertisements that show resulting accidents, still has its place, particularly seasonally. However, this has limited impact, and tends to be forgotten after a matter of weeks.

By comparison, the aforementioned gamification offers a more sustainable approach to changing and sustaining better driving habits over time, as it couches risk management in an ongoing reward/incentive-based modality.

While controlling cellular usage may be viewed in a dim light due to the fact that functionality on a smartphone can be restricted, users are not entirely robbed of their choice, as Cellcontrol’s technology is highly configurable to allow hands free communication, as an example.

Any initial inconvenience of an adjustment period is far outweighed by the gravity of better managing cellular usage while driving - that of reducing accident rates, and potentially saving lives.