Show Teen Drivers Some Money

May 7, 2018

Teens who text while driving may be convinced to reduce risky cellphone use behind the wheel when offered financial incentives such as auto insurance apps that monitor driving behavior and reward good drivers with discounts.

A new survey showed more than 90 percent of teens would give up sending or reading text messages if provided with financial incentives. However, almost half of those surveyed said they would want to retain some control over phone functions such as music and navigation.

Results of the survey conducted by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) are published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.

“More than half of teens in the United States admit to texting while driving, and this has become a significant public health issue leading to preventable deaths and disabling injuries,” said study lead author M. Kit Delgado, MD, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Penn. “Our study suggests a promising strategy to curb this epidemic would include enabling a phone setting or third party app with automatic responses to incoming texts, but with navigation and music functions accessible, combined with financial incentives to sustain use.”

For example, Delgado suggests this could be accomplished by enabling the “Do Not Disturb While Driving” setting on an iPhone to automatically turn on while the car is in motion and enrolling in an auto insurance program that offers financial incentives for using apps to track driving behavior, which have begun to emerge in the past year.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for American teens, and as cellphone use has become ubiquitous over the past two decades, texting while driving has become a significant factor in these accidents. Today, drivers 15- to 19-years-old are more likely than any other age group to die in crashes caused by cellphone-related distractions.

Since last year, the operating system for iPhones, iOS, has had a “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode that locks the phone screen, blocks incoming texts and sends automatic text responses, and limits incoming phone calls. But, the settings are optional.

“Apps and settings aimed at reducing cellphone distraction while driving can only be effective from a population health standpoint if they are widely adopted,” Delgado said.

Overall, the findings suggest that teens might widely and voluntarily adopt a “Driver Mode” app or phone setting that automatically blocks or limits text and call functions while allowing navigation and music functions, especially if combined with a financial incentive.

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Insurance Journal West May 7, 2018
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