Road Safety News

DfT wants telematics research before young driver green paper

Wednesday 29th January 2014

The DfT has ruled out publishing a green paper on young driver safety until it has more research into how telematics can improve driving behaviours, according to Post online.

Post, a publication and website for the insurance industry, says that news that the DfT wants to conduct research into the safety benefits of telematics (via the Transport Research Laboratory) emerged during a Westminster Hall debate earlier this week hosted by Robert Goodwill, parliamentary under-secretary of state for transport.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI), the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (Biba) and several telematics providers including Ingenie, Marmalade, Insure the Box and Carrot Insurance, were represented at the event.

The Post article says that “telematics dominated the agenda”, but the ABI’s recommendation for graduated driver licensing received less attention. The article suggests that the Government is no longer exploring the option of imposing a nighttime curfew for young drivers.

Ed Rochfort, from Carrot, said: “It was pretty much agreed around the table that curfews were not the way we should go. (The DfT) said it was very keen to conduct some proper research on the behaviour-changing capacity of telematics.

“I got the impression the green paper has been kicked into the long grass. The minister said he would be happy to avoid legislation if there was clear evidence the market was acting on improving young driver safety.”

Graeme Trudgill, Biba, added: “It was a positive meeting about the future of telematics and the Government is very keen on the potential for growth in this area. The minister said he felt telematics had tremendous potential, and the DfT is considering if any research in this area would help – everyone thought this would be good.”

However, Post says that the insurance industry has warned against viewing telematics as a complete solution to achieving increased safety among young drivers.

A spokesman for the ABI said: “It was broadly recognised that, in itself, telematics was not the silver bullet. The group (at the DfT meeting) agreed more research needed to be done into the effectiveness of telematics in improving road safety.

“Ultimately, the technology shows promise, but very little evidence exists to demonstrate its effectiveness in improving road safety outcomes for young people.”

A DfT spokesman commented to Post: “We are considering new research into how telematics can change the behaviour and attitudes of learner drivers and we will issue a paper when we have considered this further.


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I recently drove my granddaughter's car fitted with a telematic box and without doubt I was far more conscious of how I was driving. I agree that this is not the whole answer but every little helps.
Chris Farmer. Casual employee of Wiltshire Council Road Safety Dept.

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

Oops, I gave averages when I in fact meant peaks. Every driver registered the same peaks irrespective of their age and experience so according to my data there is no functional difference between an 18 year old lad with his hat on backwards and the Captain of the local golf club. I have no doubt the insurance company data will say exactly the same things which is probably why they say that little evidence exists to demonstrate any improvement in safety outcomes.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (2) | Disagree (6)

Sorry, but surely quoting an average gives no indication of the consistency of the reading found. Hence the main thrust of your comment seems to be unreferenced and merely an anecdote.
Rod King 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (6) | Disagree (2)

Well that's that sorted then! Thanks Duncan. Now, back to the real world...
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (6)

Telematics are a fantastic source of valuable information and when I give these gadgets to car drivers I find that there is a remarkable consistency in their driving style irrespective of their age or level of experience. The only real differences come about with drivers that do more commuting than those that do more inter-town driving, but generally everybody does the same things.

Just in case you might be interested these are the figures.
Avg Acceleration +.3G
Avg Deceleration -.3G
Avg Cornering +.3G
Max heading change 30 degrees per second
Avg speed (inter-town) 41-43MPH
Avg speed (commute) 31-33 MPH

Although my data set is quite small I would very much suspect that the much larger set held by the insurance companies would tell pretty much the same story.

This data gives the lie to the idea that 'behaviour' is anything to do with accident causation simply because everybody is behaving in the same way.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (5) | Disagree (7)

The issue of whether telematics are effective in reducing risk can be discussed until the cows come home, and even when potentially proved a positive measure, there will always be rogue instances of them increasing risk, as in the cited example. Aircraft are fitted with black box technology not to reduce risk, but merely so that we can easily find out what went wrong in order that we can minimise the chances of it going wrong again. If insurance companies can find some way of funding its placement in vehicles while simultaneously offering reduced premiums, I for one will not grumble.
David, Suffolk

Agree (6) | Disagree (5)

As an example, amongst other things, telematics could record, per mile travelled, how often (if ever with some drivers) a driver's seat-belt was worn which would be of interest to insurance companies when asessing how much this person is likely to cost them. Once known, the person's premium would rocket and the driver would have no option but to start wearing their belt which ultimately could result in a reduced casualty. As a road safety benefit, what's wrong with that? Without a device to record such action (or non-action in this case) the insurance companies would not know.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (9) | Disagree (4)

Presently, telematics cannot tell you about bad driving behaviour or indeed dangerous driving. Whilst they can tell you if a driver was speeding or braking hard, they can’t tell you whether the driver was tailgating, driving aggressively, undertaking or indeed whether the car was being driven on the wrong side of the road.

In my opinion telematics are used by the insurance industry to attract already cautious and careful young drivers in order to reduce their exposure to the over confident or risky young driver. This is not a criticism of the insurance industry, if I were them I would try and moderate my exposure, but it does concern me that the insurance industry and telematics are been seen as the saviours of young drivers when in fact telematics by themselves may help but they alone will not solve the problem of the young driving beyond their capabilities.
Charles Dunn

Agree (24) | Disagree (0)

On the contrary, I think the incident Dave referred to actually illustrates how valuable telematics can be in monitoring and assessing driver behaviour particularly with relevance to an actual accident. In that instance, without the device, we would not have known of the manner of the driver's behaviour up to the accident itself. Whilst we have the Police and cameras and other technology to detect such behaviour, it is a bit hit and miss, but having devices already installed in vehicles which could 'self-report' bad driver behaviour doesn't seem like a bad idea. If drivers knew their behaviour over the previous 12 months say was going to be analysed by their insurance company and possibly be reflected in their next premium, it would be a pretty good incentive to get it right. It would have to be pretty sophisticated system though for it not to be open to misinterpretation.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (9) | Disagree (6)

A soft option to ditch the green paper? Of course; if others are going to fund other methods of 'controlling' driver behavior. Moving away from education in favour of the stick (which is what telematrics is) in isolation is the wrong direction. A two pronged approach is needed - one to educate and one to ensure the education is working.
Barry Kenward - Fareham, Hampshire.

Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

The DfT is right to demand more research on telematics. Even in the short exposure of drivers to telematics to date, we already have two deaths where telematics may have contributed:

The telematics proved that the driver exceeded the speed limit several times, but that he crashed when he wasn't speeding. This is consistent with current evidence (that most people exceed speed limits, but that the vast majority of even the most serious collisions occur when drivers are not speeding).

Telematics may have some useful effects but will they prevent more collisions than they contribute to? We do need more research but what test would isolate the effects of telematics from all the other factors? Not an easy test to devise!
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (10) | Disagree (6)

The enforcement of a night-time curfew on young drivers would doubtless prove difficult, as well as being seen as more interference by the nanny state. I am sure that the Govt. is more than happy to let the insurers deal with the matter via telematics. By so doing it can absolve itself of any blame that a sizeable number of young voters might be keen to apportion. Cynicism aside, I believe that telematics may well prove to be a very helpful ally in the struggle to minimise KSIs.
David, Suffolk

Agree (6) | Disagree (5)

Call me cynical, but whenever a government body or other public service uses the phrase “more research is needed”, I interpret that as “why do it now, when you can put it off until another day?”. That aside, as the insurers want to assess higher-risk customers, monitoring their driving habits via telematics doesn’t seem a bad idea, but why limit it to young drivers? Why not all motorists/riders? Why not reward drivers whose driving habits have been accurately monitored and shown to be low-risk?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (9) | Disagree (6)

Very interesting statement that "very little evidence exists to demonstrate its effectiveness in improving road safety outcomes for young people.”

Many people thought that by making young drivers 'comply' with some idealised model of how they should behave on the roads then it would make a significant difference to whether or not they lived or died. This is now clearly not the case, so isn't it about time we had some fresh thinking about the problem?
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (7) | Disagree (5)