Speed identified as strongest predictor of crashes

Speeding is the most risky behaviour on the roads, according to a new analysis of data from telematics devices in vehicles.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada examined data from 28 million trips, focusing on four bad driving behaviours — speeding, hard braking, hard acceleration and hard cornering — and the likelihood of crashes.

The analysis revealed that speeding is a strong predictor of crashes, while statistically significant links for the other kinds of aggressive driving couldn’t be established.

“For insurance companies using this telematics data to assess who is a good risk and who isn’t, our suggestion based on the data is to look at speed, at people driving too fast,” said Stefan Steiner, a statistics professor in the university’s Faculty of Mathematics.

In the study, researchers initially analysed the data to identify 28 crashes based on indicators such as rapid deceleration.

Each vehicle in those crashes was then matched with 20 control vehicles that had not been in crashes, but were similar in terms of other characteristics, such as geographic location and driving distance.

When the crash cases were compared with the control cases using a sophisticated penalty system for the four kinds of aggressive driving, speeding emerged as the key difference between them.

“Some of the results are no surprise, but prior to this we had a whole industry based on intuition,” commented Allaa (Ella) Hilal, an adjunct professor of electrical and computer engineering. “Now it is formulated — we know aggressive driving has an impact.”

Steiner cautioned that more research is needed to verify the results of the study.

But he said the analysis of telematics data could eventually revolutionise the insurance industry by enabling fairer, personalised premiums based on actual driving behaviour, rather than age or location.

Hilal pointed out that the data could also make roads safer by giving drivers both tangible evidence and financial incentives to change.

“Having this information exposed and understood allows people to wrap their minds around their true risks and improve their driving behaviours,” she said.

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