Basic driving skill Aussies are failing
I ALWAYS thought I was a good driver. I can reverse park like a machine, happily wave when someone lets me in, and have never had a speeding ticket or gone through a red light.
So I was pretty cocky when I first downloaded UbiCar - a new free app that monitors your driving and rates you out of 100 for things like distraction, cornering, braking and speeding. But it turns out, I shouldn't have been so confident.
I've always had a thing for not picking up my phone while driving. I've done too many stories on tragedies that could have been avoided, and I'm the one always rousing on my family or friends if they try to check a message or look at their phone while we're on the road.
But lately I've been a bit distracted, and it's too easy to sneak a peek at an important email while the lights are red or quickly find my toddler's favourite song from The Greatest Showman to get us through the trip home from daycare. My phone distraction score on the app was a lowly 62 out of 100 - which for a self-confessed over-achiever, is pretty damn dismal.
I do think it was slightly out. Often my daughter would pick up the phone or respond to an urgent message for me, so it wasn't all my doing. But I confess to touching my phone a few times when I shouldn't have - and I'm not alone.
Next time you stop at the lights, have a look around. Many drivers around you will be on their phones. Heads down, totally engrossed with their screens and little else. But UbiCar spokesman Carolyn Batterton insists that's not the worst of our problems on Aussie roads - apparently, cornering is.
"Surprisingly, reckless cornering is a major problem, where a motorist takes a corner too quickly," Ms Batterton said.
"UbiCar data revealed this is more common than phone distraction and speeding.
"Our data shows that 16 per cent of UbiCar users are rated at lower than 50 out of 100 when it comes to their cornering, compared to just 2 per cent for phone distraction."
I scored a "very good" 88 per cent for cornering, so I'm not adding to that statistic. I followed that up with an 'excellent' 96 for speeding (my top score!), which brought my average up to four out of five stars for my 97 scored trips over the two weeks. Incredibly, I drove 682km over those 14 days. Man, that's a lot of school drop offs, soccer training and swimming lessons, isn't it?
DRIVING NEW HABITS
For the first few days I had the UbiCar app on my phone, I had forgotten all about it - which was good, as it showed my true colours as a driver. But after that, it was at the top of my mind whenever I got in the car.
I treated the phone like it was poison ivy, scared to touch it in case it showed me up to be bad on the road. It made me think about how I took my corners, consider how hard I braked, and check what speed I drove up the highway.
There is no doubt it made me a better driver. It made me want to be a better driver. And it's already working. Overall, I rated a "good" 77 out of 100 - and I can't wait to improve that score - and not just for the coins you can trade in for discounts at your favourite shops (I happily have 401 coins which I plan to spend on savings at Witchery or David Jones).
The app is already being used in the US, where studies showed a 35 per cent reduction in phone distraction as well as 20 per cent drop in hard braking and speeding within 30 days of using the telematics technology.
"Early indications from Australian users have validated US data and we are hoping to see similar trends over comparable periods," Ms Batterton said.
"By engaging with motorists on a regular basis, UbiCar aims to improve driver behaviour and make our roads safer by letting drivers know what they need to improve on."
I know what I need to improve on. And for me, that means removing the temptation. From now on my phone will be in the glove box for every drive, safely out of arm's (and eye's) reach.
Let's see if I can get to five stars. My new goal is to become an "excellent" driver that scores in the high 90s. I just wonder how many road trips it'll take to get me there.