Sydney mum Jenine Garcia considered herself a good driver – until a driving safety app gave her a “wake-up call”.
The 50-year-old told Mamamia that although she had her own concerns she may be using her phone “a little bit much” while she drove, nothing so far had made her change her habits.
Then her 21-year-old daughter introduced her to UbiCar – a free app that monitors users’ driving and gives them a score based on things like speeding, cornering, sudden breaking and how often they touch their phone screen.
Jenine was surprised she scored only a 60 out of 100 her first drive with the app – with her phone-use the major reason why. Six weeks on and she’s averaging scores in the 90s.
“It’s really been the one thing that has made me change my behaviour with my phone,” Jenine explained. “Because I guess I’m a little competitive and I don’t like to see my score dropping because I’m using my phone.”
“It makes me accountable.”
And that's just what co-founder Carolyn Batterton was hoping for when she created the app, which is the first in Australia to use telematics technology to rate a driver's performance.
"Most of us, you know, we're trying to do the right thing. And we probably don't really know where we're going wrong sometimes."
Carolyn pointed to results out of the US that looked at similar apps' effects on driver behaviour when used in city-wide competitions.
"They improved driver's mobile phone distraction by 47 per cent. In Seattle, they reduced speeding by 30 per cent," she explained. "It shows if you give people the information they will change their driver behaviour."
The app also incentivises drivers by offering them rewards in the form of deals and gift cards for safe driving, plus providing motivation in the form of competitions families, friends, or groups can set up.
Carolyn said she was thrilled that since launching around Easter the app had been taken up by so many drivers, and even introduced into schools.
"We did a pilot competition with St Luke's Grammar School in the Northern Beaches for the entire term two. So we had the Year 12s, giving them the feedback where they weren't driving so well."
"We got our first local government on board, the Northern Beaches council. They'll run a Northern Beaches' Safest Driver competition in October.
"They just saw this as a great way to engage with everybody and try to change that behaviour on the Northern Beaches roads."
However, Melbourne Driving School manager Richard Reynolds was also not 100 per cent convinced the app would make all the difference to our road toll.
"The main [dangrous habits] I see on the road are things like people don't put indicators on, people pull out just in front of you, they change lanes and they just cut across in front of you without doing a proper head check," the driving instructor said, adding that the app does not measure those behaviours. The app does, however, record harsh acceleration and harsh breaking.
But he still thought the app was worth a download.
"The whole idea, I'm more positive than negative on it," he told Mamamia. "If you got 100 people and even five get the app and change their habits then I think that's a good thing."
"You've got nothing to lose, why not?"
Jenine and her daughter certainly found the app helpful.
The mum said it alerted her daughter - who didn't share her mum's podcast-selecting-while-driving problem - that she too had picked up a bad habit.
"She was getting bad scores for cornering (too quickly) and speeding, so I think it was a bit of a wake-up call for her too.
"I guess it just makes you conscious of what you're doing wrong."
Are there some driving habits you wish you could stop?