Wintertime, and the driving ain't always easy. With rain, sleet and snow on the way, it's extra important to be as safe as possible behind the wheel—and a new free app, Onlia Sense™, is aiming to help, employing nudge theory and behavioural economics to help users proactively develop safer driving habits all while earning rewards for improved driving behaviour. We chatted with Alex Kelly, a noted transportation expert and road-safety consultant to Onlia, to gain more insight on this incredible tool. —Vita Daily
Hi Alex! What makes fall/winter driving more dangerous? Or, why the need to increase our vigilance when it comes to driving during the fall/winter months?
Seasonal shifts every fall and winter impact driving conditions in a negative way—there are increased risks due to visibility and changing weather that create a perfect storm for dangerous roads. As drivers, increasing vigilance is necessary for the winter months—it ensures we are alert to changes to weather conditions and that our vehicles are equipped to handle it. We know that the change in seasons brings darkness, cold, and potentially lots of snow every single year. Recognizing this, being prepared should be second nature.
According to the Onlia Safety Index study, what are some of the most-common self-admitted driving faux pas among Canadians?
The Onlia Safety Index revealed that Canadians report they are most likely to speed (80 per cent), experience road rage (30 per cent) or fail to check their blind spots (22 per cent).
What are safe driving habits, and why/for what reasons may they be compromised?
Safe driving habits are behaviours behind the wheel that help to minimize your risk on the road, for drivers, passengers and all other road users. A few examples include maintaining the speed limit, signalling before changing lanes, always checking your blind spot and checking your vehicle before every trip. These behaviours are critical to ensure that people get home safely. However, sometimes bad habits creep in, and compromise good habits, due to lack of attention, inexperience or forgetfulness.
What techniques can drivers employ to break poor driving habits or what positive reinforcements are available as an alternative to fear-based statistics?
The first step is awareness of the bad habits—when driving, how often do you speed, forget to signal, or not completely stop at an intersection? Drivers will benefit from eliminating distractions and focus on bringing the good habits back into their car. The Onlia Sense™ app actually runs in the background of your mobile phone, and scores driving habits—it is a great way to get a clear picture of your habits related to behaviours like speeding and cornering. The app supports positive behaviour change by rewarding drivers with gift cards and cash back rewards.
How does Onlia Sense™ work (and why does it work)?
By using telematics, Onlia Sense™ changes users’ phones from a source of distraction into a tool for coaching and motivating safer driving behaviours. After each trip, users receive a drive score based on factors like speed, braking, acceleration, contextual and cornering to help hone safe-driving technique. It also shows any instances of distracted driving. The app really focuses on maximizing the good behaviours, and encouraging more of them, teaching users along the way. Onlia Sense™ uses behavioural psychology and nudge theory to create positive associations with good habits on the road. Insights have shown that positive reinforcement is effective at creating behaviour change, so Onlia provides rewards to drivers for their great drive scores. The result is a community of drivers who are engaged in road safety and are positively rewarded for their contribution toward making Canada’s roads safer.
What are the rewards?
Currently, Onlia Sense™ offers all Canadians Starbucks digital gift cards as perks for safe driving, but they will be adding and changing perks over time to give drivers news ways to improve their driving and the safety of Canadian roads.
In addition to regularly using the Onlia Sense™ app to monitor real-time safe-driving behaviour, what other steps can drivers take to habitually improve their awareness and proactively manage their driving skills?
Drivers can proactively manage their driving skills by staying distraction free, focusing on integrating the good behaviours back into their driving. Understanding the full impact of bad habits (for example, if you are speeding, your reaction time is shorter, making a crash more likely) can also be a great wake-up call to change things up. Sometimes we just don’t understand how minor bad habits can result in serious outcomes. If drivers aren’t sure what they are doing wrong, ask a passenger to give them feedback on driving skills! Sometimes outside perspective can be really helpful to modify behaviour.
Finally, can you give us your five top safety conscious driving tips for the season—and beyond?
1. Always check your vehicle before heading out on a trip: this includes clearing snow off, topping up fluids, checking tire pressure and other basic maintenance.
2. Be aware of changing road conditions, as well as how to drive in them: black ice, high winds and snow squalls all pose a risk on the roads.
3. Leave early: to avoid the temptation of speeding, leave earlier than normal, to allow ample time (even if there is a delay, or you are stuck behind a snow plow) without rushing.
4. Leave room: allow for greater stopping distances between other cars or stoplights. Variable road surfaces require extra reaction time, which can be the difference between a close call and collision.
5. Always be prepared: stock up your vehicle’s emergency kit, and for longer drives in remote areas, make sure you are wearing the appropriate clothing and footwear. If something unfortunate does happen, this allows you to stay safe, warm, and visible until help arrives.