We all think we're good drivers

Herein lies the problem: Most of us think we’re better drivers than we are.

People’s skewed perception of their driving ability and their misplaced belief that they are good drivers is one of the biggest challenges companies face in improving employee driver behaviour. What’s more, most people don’t trust the judgement of others when it comes to their driving ability.

According to research by Psychological scientists Michael M. Roy of Elizabethtown College and Michael J. Liersch of New York University, most drivers will rate themselves as above average. Yet, they don’t think others would agree. Across four experiments, Roy and Liersch found that people often believed that others would rate them as a worse driver than they rated themselves.

In social psychology, the name given to the condition of people overestimating their abilities is called illusory superiority.

One recent survey for an insurer demonstrated a great example of this: 36% of drivers believed they were still an above-average driver while texting and driving. While 44% considered themselves average, leaving only 20% to consider themselves below-average drivers while using their phone while driving.

One of the reasons for this problem is that there is no standard, accepted definition of good driving! A driver may believe their ability to text while driving makes them a better driver! Many drivers may believe that speeding is not dangerous on certain roads or if they are only marginally over the limit. Moreover, company driver policies, telematics and most driver training courses have failed to standardise an industry definition of 'good driving'.

Furthermore, we also see a false sense of security in that major collisions remain infrequent so relatively risky driving will more often than not result in a near miss or at worst a minor scrape.

All of this makes engaging employees to think about safe driving and behaviour a significant challenge for most companies.And yet collisions do happen, people do die on the roads, and certain risky behaviours are clearly correlated with these tragic outcomes. So how do we get drivers to connect the dots?

Genuinely changing driver perceptions and behaviour

Genuinely changing people’s perception of whether they are a good driver, and consequently, their driving behaviour has been at the heart of what we’ve been trying to solve since we started working on Brightmile.

What we’ve found in the past three years of working with thousands of drivers across more than 20 countries is that explicitly labelling a driver’s overall abilities as poor or average (often with an aggregate driving ‘score’) via the standard metrics of driver behaviour only leads to greater disengagement from the drivers that need the most help.

However, using the principles of rewards, gamification and positive reinforcement can change driver behaviour even with the most disengaged employee. Rather than an aggregated score, we set out objective performance over time and against other drivers on our "Five Pillars" of driver behaviour.

By encouraging small actions, providing regular feedback, and harnessing competitiveness, Brightmile has helped employees feel like they are driving safer with our distracted driving prevention application.

Furthermore, with an engaged user of distracted driving prevention technology, over time, we also earn the right to provide ‘negative feedback’ across these Five Pillars. Feedback needs to provide clear specific insight.  For example, our contextual road risk pillar, where we can let people know how they are performing in relation to speed at higher risk road infrastructure such as junctions or school zones. We also look at speeding by magnitude and road type - even the most self-confident driver might admit that going 50mph in a 30 zone is poor behaviour.

A natural reaction from any driver being judged on their performance is to be critical. This usually takes the form of questions relating to how something works or in some cases, denial of the truth.

Gaining the trust of the driver involves overcoming these natural hurdles - we do this by starting a dialogue with a driver from the point they are invited to join Brightmile. Drivers are able to reach the Brightmile team through the in-app chat or by email, moving away from asking potentially uncomfortable questions to their management team or sitting with unanswered questions and growing disillusionment.

The tools now exist to move beyond thinking how good we are as drivers, to knowing and celebrating improvement, and they are more accessible than ever. We use apps to monitor or assist many facets of our daily lives, so why not distracted driving and safe behavior?

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