Road Safety and the science of good driving

Road Safety and the science of good driving


It is only prudent that we use the advances in technology to improve road safety as well. Not only have cars become safer with ABS brake systems and other technology - but so too has our ability to measure safe driving behaviour. Car insurance companies have been closely involved in the development of vehicle telematics to deliver data that could allow them to calculate driver risk.

This term is described as "insurance telematics" whereby insurance companies are better able to calculate insurance premiums based on the actual driving behaviour of their insured clients.

We have decided to share the experiences from one of these insurers. Discovery Insure is using the DQ-track system developed by Ctrack to measure the driving behaviour of their clients. Discovery Insure has provided the following information:

What does it mean to be a good driver?

Do you consider yourself to be an excellent driver? If so, you’re not alone. Whether you happen to be zipping along the 120km/hr freeway at a record speed of 40km/hr, or an aspirant F1 driver dodging obstacles at a higher speed than mandated for, many South African drivers believe they are good, responsible drivers.

Not everyone can drive like F1 drivers, who are known for their high fitness levels and high driver safety awareness and understanding the performance envelope of their vehicles being the speed, acceleration and cornering profile within which their vehicle can safely be driven. F1 drivers are reputed to be safe drivers while driving on the roads, sharing them with pedestrians and citizens alike. They cannot afford to drive badly, as they are perceived to be role models for good, safe driving, and a few are in the public eye as ambassadors for the global Decade of Road Safety 2011-2020 campaign which promotes good driving behaviour and aims to reduce the number of road crashes and deaths worldwide.

So, if F1 drivers who are after all, human too, do experience accidents from time to time, it begs the question of what it means to be a good driver, especially on South African roads which are notorious for being among the world’s most dangerous roads to traverse. This is a question we at Discovery Insure are interested in. Through our driver intelligence, Driver Quotient (DQ) scorecard, we are able to scientifically quantify and qualify what good driving behaviour is. The average driver, according to Arrive Alive statistics, makes up to 15 major decisions per kilometre travelled. That is a lot of decision-making for one individual, and it is critical that we all take driver behaviour seriously as the consequences of bad driving behaviour obviously are a high number of road accidents and unnecessary deaths.


Lessons from Formula 1 on good driving

Opinion tends to differ on what it means to be a good driver. For some, in traditional insurance terms, it means being accident-free for a good number of years, for others, it is not talking or texting on the phone while driving, and for others it may be remaining within the speed limit. Discovery Insure, which has 18 000 Discovery Insure drivers, understands that good driving is much more than these stand-alone elements, and that it involves a combination of three components, namely: driver performance, knowledge and awareness and vehicle condition and roadworthiness. These components form part of the DQ-Track programme, which is a scientifically and actuarially robust measure of good driving.  

We have worked closely with Rory Byrne, who led the design of F1 cars for over 20 years and is our Special Engineering Adviser, to refine out the DQ-Track model. Rory believes that what it means to be a good driver is to be someone who understands their own abilities and the capabilities of their vehicles, for slow drivers do not necessarily make good drivers, or fast drivers good drivers; and that gender isn’t a differentiator as anyone can become a good driver.


South African driving survey

South African drivers appear to have a built-in over confidence when it comes to their driving ability. This was reflected in a survey Discovery Insure undertook when we surveyed members on how good a driver they thought they were out of three categories: excellent, moderate and poor. The results revealed that 81% of South Africans believe they are excellent drivers. However, the sad reality is that, according to recent data our DQ-Track programme has accumulated, only 10% of these drivers are actually excellent drivers. As for the rest, 58% percent are moderate drivers while 32% are poor drivers. This does not bode well for our country where road accidents and road-related deaths feature in our day-to-day lives, and is set to increase.  On the positive side, we have seen a marked improvement of driver behaviour and more Discovery Insure members are becoming excellent and moderate drivers,


DQ-Track system/Insurance Telematics and Driver Analysis

The DQ-Track analyses driving indicators such as speed, acceleration, braking, cornering and more which enables us to measure how well our clients drive. These results are calculated through proprietary algorithms and sent to clients on a monthly basis with a review of their driving for said month, and suggestions on how they can improve their driving ability, thus equipping them with evidence-based information they need to become better drivers. The DQ-Track, which allows each driver to be measured and rewarded appropriately based on their individual behaviour, has generated over 91 million kilometres of behavioural data.

Good driving behaviour rewards are earned through DQ points for improving their driving, awareness and vehicle safety, and achieving a driver status much in the same way a Discovery Health member would receive rewards based on the Vitality model for making healthy lifestyle choices. Discovery Insure has a powerful reward of up to 40% cash back on fuel spend which has proven to resonate with consumers given the rising cost of fuel. To date, Discovery Insure has seen over 128 000 fuel transactions, and over R8 million in rewards has been paid out to our drivers. The more a driver engages with DQ-Track, the greater the rewards.

Road Safety and the science of good driving

Sasha Martinengo & Rory Byrne 


The beauty of the Discovery Insure model is that our data shows that bad drivers, with the help of DQ-Track feedback, are driving better. We are able to see this link through correlating driver behaviour to the rate of accidents. This is an important find, for it shows that over time South African drivers can through incentives, improve their driving and reduce the country’s high road death rate, and that  Discovery Insure has the capability to make a substantial contribution towards creating safer roads for all South Africans and their families. This is in alignment with our group’s core purpose of making people healthier, enhancing and protecting their lives, particularly when taking into account that there are about 14 000 fatalities on our roads each year, and if nothing is done about this, these numbers will continue to rise.

Sobering facts to take into account, especially given World Health Organisation estimates that about 1.3 million people die each year from road traffic crashes, and between 20 – 50 million people sustain non-fatal injuries that may leave them disabled for life. Worst of all, over 90% of these deaths occur in developing countries. If this ‘epidemic on wheels’ as it is aptly described, is not acted upon, the WHO predicts that by 2015, road crashes will become one of the leading causes of premature deaths and disability for children aged 5 and above worldwide, and that by 2020, there will be up to 2 million deaths per year, placing road deaths in the top category for deaths. Furthermore, this number could double in developing countries by 2030.


Decade of Road Safety 2011-2020

As a response to this, the WHO’s global Decade of Road Safety 2011-2020 campaign promotes good driving behaviour and aims to reduce the number of road deaths by 50%, saving five million lives and in the process, make a real difference to five million families. These figures highlight the importance of being a good driver, and it is our vision that in time, our approach to improving driving will be standard in our society and to reduce the unacceptably high rate of accidents on our roads.


Information with recognition to        

Anton Ossip is CEO of Discovery Insure

Rory Byrne is Special Engineering Advisor and Board member of Discovery Insure. He was Chief Designer at Ferrari during Michael Schumacher’s reign atop Formula 1


For more on vehicle and insurance telematics also view:

What is Insurance Telematics and how will it impact on car insurance?

Vehicle Insurance Telematics

Driver Intelligence to be measured by Discovery with Discovery Insure

Outsurance activates technology to reward safe driving behaviour

Pay As You Drive and Car Insurance

Vehicle Telematics, Accident Investigation and Fleet Management

Car Insurance and Road Safety in South Africa


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