Imagine informing your Aggie friends that College Station, Texas, with its 120,019 residents, had 153% more crashes on a game day than Los Angeles’ 3.8 million residents.
That’s just a sampling of the lessons learned from more than 1 trillion miles of driving data that’s been collected by Arity, a mobility data and analytics company spun off from The Allstate Corporation. The intent of the data collection—some of which is acquired from automotive partners, but mostly from smart phone uploads—is to better understand dangerous preconditions.
“We all know that driving is risky and unpredictable,” states Megan Jones, senior actuary and analytics director at Arity, “but with a better understanding of driver behavior, we believe we can make the experience safer, smarter and more economical.”
The improved experience depends upon how a partner wants to provide the information; anything from warnings ahead of starting a trip to coaching the driver on better behaviors to possibly even “avoid risky conditions” as a navigational option much like “avoid toll roads.”
The really interesting part is the data suggests three semi-predictable themes of the “insured risk” (which incorporates both the likelihood of an accident and the resulting severity including associated injuries) with fascinating sub-elements under each category: How you drive, how often you drive and when you drive.
How You Drive
Although multiple factors affect the complicated algorithm that predicts the driving prowess or deficiencies of a specific driver, Jones explains that three sub-behaviors are especially indicative within the data.
To anyone who has ridden with an aggressive driver, the first sub-behavior will ring true. “When I talk about sudden braking [within the data], I’m not just talking about the act of slowing down to come to a stop sign, but these are instances of extreme deceleration. And when we look at it as a predictor of risk, it’s really the behavior or habit of needing to suddenly brake often.”
The root cause behind the severe responses might vary, though. “It can indicate that they are driving in an unsafe environment, that the drivers themselves are not allowing safe stopping distances or that they are becoming distracted frequently,” Jones says.
The second sub-behavior is speed, but with an actuarial twist: a statistical combination of frequently driving excessively over the speed limit and exceeding a specific “high speed” threshold. “The speed limits have been provided for very good reasons,” expounds Jones, “and that risk of speeding gets compounded at higher speeds.”
The last sub-behavior is perhaps the most controllable: phone usage while driving. “We continue to see an increasing trend and, unfortunately, that means people are less aware of their driving environment and have slower reaction times.” But according to a 2017 study, some portions of the population are more susceptible: age, gender and even personality can affect how often a driver is distracted by a phone. Young men are the most prone to this sub-behavior, especially “those with neurotic and extraverted personalities,” Jones says.
How Often You Drive
“This is universally known and very intuitive: the longer someone is on the road, the more likely they are to be involved in an accident,” explains Jones. And, sure enough, one of the major ways NHTSA tracks safety performance is deaths per million miles driven (which has improved so far in 2023), and nearly every insurance policy asks commuting distance or expected miles driven per year.
Exposure obviously creates additional risk.
When You Drive
One might assume the greatest “when” is predictable: either during rush hour (when the increased volume of cars creates a target-rich environment) or during inclement weather (when the decreased traction amplifies other behaviors).
But, per Jones, there is, “even higher risk during the late-night hours—especially weekends—when your visibility is lower because it’s dark out and there’s a greater potential for fatigue and/or impairment. It’s harder [logistically and psychologically] for many of us to modify when we drive because some people don’t have the option, and that’s why we like to educate people about those time periods being riskier so they mitigate phone usage, speeding and all of those other variables.”
Parents: some of the data’s conclusions might be things about which you already intended to nag your teenagers. However, as the father of no-longer-teenagers, may I suggest showing them this article. It’s easy to think parents are stupid and ignore the wisdom we’ve collected over multiple decades.
But a trillion miles of data doesn’t lie.
And it’s coming from their phones, which are smart.