Using data and technology to keep young drivers safer

A study into using telematics technology to improve driving behaviours of young drivers has received funding from the federal government’s Road Safety Innovation Fund.

Telematics is an interdisciplinary field that includes telecommunications and information processing. This study will use a telematics device to capture real-time data about vehicle usage, such as acceleration, speed, turning, and braking to paint a picture of the driver’s behaviour.

The study will be conducted by Dr Sharon Chen and Professor Denny Meyer from Swinburne’s School of Health Sciences

Understanding young drivers’ behaviours

According to a paper published in the Journal of Transportation Research Board, about 11 per cent of the Australian population consists of young adults aged 16 to 24 years. This group accounted for 18 per cent of all road traffic deaths between 2014 and 2018. In fact, the reported death rate for younger drivers aged 16 to 19 is almost twice the reported rate for older drivers aged 25 and above.

‘Previous studies have identified distracted driving as an emerging global problem in countries including New Zealand, Spain and Canada. We are noticing that driver distraction is becoming especially prevalent among young drivers,’ says Dr Chen.

Telematics to improve driving behaviour

A recent Young Drivers Telematics Trial conducted in Australia by the New South Wales State Insurance Regulatory Authority revealed that the real-time feedback generated by telematics has led to positive impacts on young driver behaviours.

‘The young drivers reported that these telematics devices had constantly reminded them to be more aware of their driving behaviours,’ Professor Meyer notes.

‘However, previous naturalistic studies have shown that real-time audio, visual and parental feedback have been proven effective to improve driving behaviour, particularly among young drivers,’ she adds.

Dr Chen and Professor Meyer plan to integrate findings from these trials and various studies into road safety programs and young driver behaviours into one single study.

‘This in-depth investigation will provide valuable insights regarding the benefits of new telematics technology for driver training,’ explains Dr Chen.

‘As part of our study, we will use a telematics device called GOFAR to monitor the in-car driving behaviours of two groups of young drivers – the treatment group and a control group – over the duration of six months.

The treatment group will receive an extended version of the telematics device with an LED light situated above the driver dashboard. The LED light will provide real-time feedback by changing colours to alert drivers when they are speeding or making harsh manoeuvres. The control group will receive a telematics device without the LED light ray,’ explains Dr Chen.

‘Pre and post-interviews will be carried out with these drivers to gather information about their general and distracted driving behaviour, their mobile phone dependency, as well as their road rules knowledge to better understand their driving behaviours,’ Professor Meyer adds.

Supporting road safety

The Road Safety Innovation Fund is awarded by the federal government’s Office of Road Safety.

The fund targets innovative projects designed to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on Australian roads and help create a safe and sustainable road transport system for everyone. Priority areas include improving road safety in regional and remote areas, reducing driver distraction and drug driving, improving safety for vulnerable road users and supporting road safety research and initiatives specific to the Australian context.

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