Transforming Cell Phones From Threat To Lifesaver

distracted drivingIt is no secret that cell phones are a major part of distracted driving, and that distracted driving kills’ people. New studies have been conducted using the vast amounts of data provided by the very devices that cause the distractions, and the results are alarming, but not surprising. The largest study to date was conducted by Zendrive, and analyzed data from 3.1 million drivers across the nation during December 2016 and February 2017. The study shows that drivers spend an average of 3.5 minutes per hour on their phone while driving. This is disturbing due to the fact that a 2 second distraction can increase the risk of crashing by 20 times. Thant equals about 105 chances of killing yourself or someone else for every hour on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates nearly 3,500 people died in distraction-related crashes in 2015, and the problem may be worsening. However, there is hope. With the help of scientists and engineers, we can transform the mobile device into a lifesaver by using behavior theory. In addition, making informed decisions is the best way to keep your cheap car insurance and other auto costs down.

distracted driving 2B.J. Fogg is one such scientist. His Behavior Model theory states that effective behavior change requires motivation, ability, and triggers to come together simultaneously. This theory can be used to create a method to change bad driving habits by showing what causes behavior and using the mobile phone to persuade a positive change. Traffic deaths are preventable. We know what behaviors contribute to traffic deaths, so we can develop strategies to reduce, and eventually eliminate, them. Knowing the scope of the problem helps focus the concentration on strategies that will work.

One device that is striving to make a difference is the Automatic Pro, a small device that connects your car to the Internet to remember where you parked, save you money on gas, and even call for help in a crash. But it also does much more than that. The device uses the behavioral model theory described above to integrate many different apps and give feedback in a way that encourages a change in driving behavior. The device allows you to integrate your car into life and expense tracking and smart-home appliances. There are also these additional benefits to sweeten the deal:

  • Track driving and location over cellular connection
  • Helps respond when crash detected
  • Allows detailed mileage reporting for expenses
  • Platform for other car-related and location apps, including Amazon Echo and Nest

distracted driving 3You, the driver, get to see the direct correlations between how you drive and what it costs you, as well as giving unbiased reports of how often distracted driving is occurring. It gives the driver information, and lets the driver be responsible for adjusting their own behavior. It provides the triggers that are required to change behavior. For instance, if you can see that by reducing your hard stops and fast take offs will save you $50 a month on gas, you may be motivated to change those small things in order to reap the financial reward. Saving on gas, auto repairs, and getting the best cheap car insurance are ways of using positive reinforcement to lower distracted driving, and deadly accidents.

This statement from Automatic gives a good summary: “Automatic avoids value judgements by making everything from the naming of behaviors to the sound design factual and empirical. The app makes the monetary cost of habits understandable and actionable, but leaves the decision about what to do firmly in the driver’s seat.” Knowing what we do about human behavior, this is a much more effective way to create change, make driving safer, save more on cheap car insurance, and save lives.
Fortunately, devices like Automatic are not the only way to affect change in the high rate of distracted driving. Studies have shown that at the state-level, laws that ban hand-held phone use actually reduces the amount of time per trip drivers use their phones. The Zendrive study does indicate that anti-distracted driving laws are working, to a distracted driving 4degree. Of the six states with the lowest levels of distracted driving, four ban hand-held phone use while driving. Laws and strong enforcement are part of the solution, then, but they can’t be the whole thing. Engaging the driver through personally motivated behavior is a promising part of the solution, especially given the millennial generation and their fixation with their mobile phones. Turning the ultimate culprit of distracted driving into the tool that changes bad driving behavior is pretty genius, and hopefully a giant step forward toward figuring out how to remove the temptation to tweet or ‘gram or email behind the wheel.

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