Walsh announces app-based ‘safest driver’ competition to curb distracted driving

Metro

Last year, Walsh announced the city’s involvement in a national Vision Zero initiative to eliminate serious and fatal car accidents in Boston by 2030.

Continuing these efforts to protect the city’s pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, the Vision Zero Task Force and Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT) along with Walsh’s Office of New Urban Mechanics revealed the initiative’s latest effort this week.

Boston’s Safest Driver competition is a smartphone app that scores drivers based on five behaviors that are associated with safe driving, according to the city. Drivers from across the Boston Metro area can compete through this app for more than $9,000 in prizes.

“We know that when drivers are more attentive, we save lives, and this new competition is a fun way to encourage drivers to use more caution when traveling on our streets,” Walsh said in a news release.

Through the app, drivers can challenge their friends, see how they rank in their community against other drivers, taxis and buses and win prizes each week based on their improvement.

The competition will end in mid-December with “the crowning of the safest drivers in the region,” according to the mayor’s office.

While it may seem counter-intuitive to ask safe drivers to use a smartphone during their commutes, the app actually measures how often a driver is distracted by their phone, as well as factors like rapid acceleration, harsh braking, sharp turns and at-risk speeding.

Drivers start their trip on the app before driving and it logs data in the background of the user’s phone. At the end of the trip, the driver gets their score, details on how well they did on the five different factors and tips on how to improve in the future.

“Many people blame smartphones for an increase in distracted driving, and there is some truth to that,” said Hari Balakrishnan, CTO of Cambridge Mobile Telematics, in a statement. “Over the past several years, right here in Boston, our team at CMT has shown that smartphone technology can help make people better drivers.”

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