Dashcam video from Molly Bradshaw’s accident during the trial
Dashcam video from Molly Bradshaw’s accident during the trial

When young drivers and phones do mix

A MOBILE app allowing P-plate motorists and their parents to monitor their driving is improving behaviour behind the wheel and could save young lives.

Twenty-seven drivers took part in a trial, organised by insurer Suncorp, using telematics technology and dashcams to record data on speed, hard accelerating, hard braking and cornering, and video footage of events such as near-misses.

The results were available via a smartphone app and web page.

Suncorp behavioural economist Phil Slade said while the final report was still being prepared, the early results were positive.

"The more they engaged with the app, the greater the improvement," he said.

Mr Slade said the technology enabled drivers to become more aware of their actions and reduce poor critical-decision-making moments.

"For example, people often did not intend to speed but were simply unaware that they were," he said.

"Young drivers are still developing the parts of their brain responsible for planning and self-control, which aren't fully developed until they're 24 or 25 years old. But there are ways to encourage this development process and help them make better decisions in specific contexts, like driving a car."

Molly Bradshaw says the trial of an app for young drivers helped her to improve her skills behind the wheel. Picture: AAP/Steve Pohlner
Molly Bradshaw says the trial of an app for young drivers helped her to improve her skills behind the wheel. Picture: AAP/Steve Pohlner

The trial was "gamified'' by ranking each driver on a leaderboard and scoring them on elements of their driving as motivation to improve.

The fact both they and their parents could access the data provided a bridge for conversations and coaching.

"Parents are trying to be protective, while kids want their independence and don't want to be hovered over," Mr Slade said.

One of the young participants had a serious collision during the experiment, with the incident captured on dashcam.

Molly Bradshaw was knocked unconscious and her car veered on to the wrong side of the road after crashing with a vehicle pulling out of a side street.

"I don't really remember much after the airbag hit me in the face," she said.

The footage reassured her that she was under the speed limit and driving safely, but was a stark reminder of how quickly things could occur on the road.

"There was nothing and suddenly this car came from nowhere," she said.

The 17-year-old said the app enabled her to be more aware of her cornering, braking and acceleration techniques.

"I think it's made me a much better driver," she said

Mr Slade said the trial could help develop training methods to improve skills and reduce the death and serious injury rate among young drivers.

A 2017 Suncorp-commissioned study of 5255 drivers aged 18-34 found almost one in five admitted causing an accident, and nearly half had had a near-miss when they were distracted behind the wheel.