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Oregon launches unique campaign to reduce distracted driving

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has partnered with mobile software developer LifeSaver to introduce friendly competition to encourage motorists to drive without distractions.

Nearly 500 people lost their lives on Oregon roads in 2016, reversing a decade’s worth of reductions in fatalities, with crash data analysis pointing toward distracted driving as being a contributing cause. Someone is injured by distracted driving in Oregon every three hours, and a recent survey showed that over 75% of drivers admit to doing it, but almost the same number disapprove of other people driving distracted. Recent research by Southern Oregon University on behalf of ODOT, described the problem as “an epidemic”.

ODOT has partnered with LifeSaver to help reduce distracted driving by using the established technique of ‘gamification’, as part of the agency’s DriveHealthy’ campaign. Starting on September 1, ODOT and its partners, AAA of Oregon/Idaho and the Oregon State Police, are inviting groups to form up and compete with each other, to see who is Oregon’s safest driver. Participating organizations will sign up, then create a special DriveHealthy portal account used to invite drivers to install the LifeSaver app and participate as driving members of the group. The app scores on whether drivers unlock or use their phone while the vehicle is in motion, with less unlocking meaning a higher score. The free app shows the top scorers in each category, plus each group’s monthly score.

The campaign comes as the result of the recommendations from a statewide task force that was convened by ODOT’s director, Matthew Garrett, in 2016, which recommended a positive approach to the problem. The recent and similar ‘Boston’s Safest Driver’ competition used gamification to reduce phone-based distracted driving by 47%. The Oregon campaign also encourages local road safety advocates to help reduce distracted driving in their communities. The DriveHealthy website includes links to toolkits where advocates can do their own observational studies of distracted driving in their community and petition local jurisdictions to pass proclamations and policies to encourage healthy driving.

“As a culture, I think we’re ready for a change,” said ODOT’s communications manager Tom Fuller. “The stories of deaths and injuries from distracted driving are as horrific as they are preventable. Healthy driving is our way of changing the conversation from shaming a negative behavior, to encouraging a positive one.”

August 7, 2017

Written by Adam Frost

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