Speed tops crash risk behaviour

Of all the bad behaviours drivers get up to, speeding is the one that has the strongest link to a crash outcome, according to a new study of 28 million car trips.

The massive data set for the study came from insurance companies in Canada and the USA with clients who had on-board diagnostic devices installed in their vehicles.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo examined the data from the 28 million trips for possible links between four bad driving behaviours—speeding, hard braking, hard acceleration and hard cornering—and the likelihood of crashes.

The analysis revealed speeding is a strong predictor of crashes.

In the first study of its kind, researchers initially analysed the data to identify a group of crashes based on indicators such as rapid deceleration.

Each vehicle in those crashes was then matched with 20 control vehicles that had not been in crashes, but were similar in terms of other characteristics, including geographic location and driving distance.

When the crash cases were compared to the control cases, taking account of the four kinds of bad driving, speeding emerged as the key difference between them.

"Some of the results are no surprise, but prior to this we had a whole industry based on intuition," said Allaa Hilal, an adjunct professor of electrical and computer engineering. "Now it is formulated — we know aggressive driving has an impact."

The study was limited by several unknowns, such as different drivers using the same vehicle, and more research is needed to verify the results.

But Hilal said the analysis of telematics data could eventually revolutionise the insurance industry by enabling fairer, personalised premiums based on actual driving behaviour, not age, gender or location.

Hilal believes the data could also make roads safer by giving drivers both tangible evidence and financial incentives to change.

"Having this information exposed and understood allows people to wrap their minds around their true risks and improve their driving behaviours," she said. "We are super pumped about its potential."

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