Smartphone app hoped to save P-plater lives

Smartphone app hoped to save P-plater lives

Developers are working to curb road deaths caused by inexperience with a new smartphone app that measures young drivers’ performance.

Scientists from the Western Australian Centre for Road Safety Research (WACRSR) at UWA are currently seeking young volunteers to test the effectiveness of the software created by Victorian company Urban Analytica.

WACRSR researchers and study author Dr Michelle Fraser, says her team is looking into whether a smart phone app that provides personalised feedback about driving can improve safe driving behaviour among young people, specifically in regional areas.

Approximately 108 young drivers aged between 17–19 were killed in WA in 2019, according to UWA research.

The smartphone app records the movement of the vehicle, and then uses this information to provide the drivers with feedback about their driving performance in areas such as speeding, harsh breaking and harsh acceleration.

“The software also comes with a weekly driving score, which rates the driver`s performance, then delivers written feedback on what they can do to improve that score,” Dr Fraser says.

Dr Fraser says the app targets P-platers because they are more prone to risk taking behaviours such as drink-driving and speeding despite being inexperienced and needing to develop their driving skills.

“The risk of being in a car crash is significantly higher in the first 6-12 months after getting a licence, and around two thirds of fatal crashes occur in regional areas due to the high-speed limit,” Dr Fraser says.

The research team is looking for 200 young drivers aged between 17 and 20 years who are currently on their red or green P-plates.

Volunteers must also live and drive in the South-West, Great Southern, or Mid-West regions of WA, three or more times a week and use the app during an 8-week period.

“There’s definitely potential for it to be rolled out wider than just young drivers.

However, there’s the issue of whether older drivers would naturally use an app because young people are more prone to accept technology as part of their daily life,” Dr Fraser says.