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Improving road safety: Young Drivers

In December last year we launched Shotgun, a free smartphone app that aims to reduce roads deaths among new young drivers.

In the UK, 490,000 drivers pass their test each year. It is a significant rite of passage for many young people, but it is also a time when young drivers are at their most vulnerable. Our data shows that accident rates among young drivers are, perhaps not surprisingly, enormously higher during the first year of driving, with one in five young drivers having some form of accident during this time. Young drivers are also hugely over-represented in the most serious accidents.

There are various reasons why young drivers crash; these include over-confidence, a natural human urge to test personal boundaries and take risks, and little experience of recognising hidden hazards. Using road-safety data and our knowledge of driver behaviour, we identified contextual speed (speed relative to other safe road users) as a significant cause of fatal and serious crashes involving young drivers. In particular, the first 1,000 miles for a new driver are critical; this is when the gap between perceived and actual driving competence drives much higher risk.

In response, we have set ourselves the ambitious goal of cutting deaths in the first 1,000 miles to zero across the UK. We will, of course, need to work with many other stakeholders to achieve this goal.

The biggest barrier to addressing this issue is that young drivers often feel immune to the risks. Our goal of inspiring a generation of safe and careful drivers sits at odds with many of the motivations of new drivers. Young drivers, especially young men, can be pro-risk and competitive. From our surveys, we found that many believe that ‘most people drive faster than the speed limit’ and that ‘good driving means travelling as fast as you can’. To change behaviour, we must change this perspective.

Shotgun acts as the wingman for newly qualified drivers and was developed with their direct input. Through GPS technology on a user’s smartphone, Shotgun uses the best of our telematics capability to assess driving performance, evaluating smoothness, contextual speed and a number of other factors to generate a score for each journey taken. Each user builds up a personal score which is a core indicator of accident risk. In turn, this score earns app users a place on the Shotgun leaderboard, gamifying the experience and allowing users to compete with their peers. Shotgun re-frames what it takes to be a good driver, and explodes the myth that everybody else is driving fast. The app also gives users detailed feedback, highlighting what they have done well, and how they could improve their driving score next time. When users hit pre-determined point thresholds, they unlock rewards. This encourages drivers to use the app through 1,000 miles and to improve their performance still further to earn ever more valuable rewards.

We are working with various reward partners, including Boost and Virgin Experience. Shotgun offers rewards which are attractive to a 17 to 25 year old demographic. Our research showed we needed a range of reward options that appealed to different tastes and to both urban and more rural users.

To launch the app we used the same leading-edge thinking that won Direct Line a coveted Institute of Practitioners in Advertising Gold award for Effectiveness. The Shotgun launch represented a departure from traditional advertising, in a bid to engage the target audience using channels that are relevant. This moves the topic of road safety into a more social space, with a particular focus on personal platforms like Instagram, You Tube and Snapchat. The strategy was to create content in a range of formats, based on creative ideas that resonate with the audience. These were seeded with carefully chosen partners to build saliency and drive momentum. They are also quite a bit edgier than our traditional marketing messages.

We put in place a communication plan for a diverse range of audiences – young drivers, of course were central, but also their parents as well as our own employees. Making sure we capture all of these groups is critical. For our staff, our approach has been to create awareness, build understanding and drive engagement across the business. We want our people to be proud of our shared belief that the knowhow and power of Direct Line can be a real force for good in the UK. We also want our employees to become active advocates for this initiative in their local communities right across the country.

From our research and testing, we know we can engage with this vulnerable audience and change both their attitudes to driving and materially improve their driving behaviour, making a real change in their chances of being killed or injured on the roads.

During 2017, we are focusing on delivering against this objective. We will run a series of attitudinal research studies to track our users’ attitude to driving. In addition, the Shotgun app will give us a rich source of data allowing us to measure improvements to driving performance over time

Annual Report & Accounts 2016

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