It's time to face up to phoning at the wheel, so let's face it down
Big safety drive by RSA, Toyota and Topaz: new app will get you points for 'hiding your mobile'
One thing that's better than giving good advice is doing something that helps someone in a practical way.
That is something we try to do on road safety. Instead of just telling people to be seen when walking, we give out high-visibility armbands, jackets and bike lights, free of charge at events. We even provide them free to order on our website, rsa.ie.
Our mobile roadshow unit, affectionately known as the 'Shuttle', provides people with practical road-safety experiences though our virtual reality experiences and car, motorbike and bicycle simulators.
Another example is our driver fatigue campaign. The advice is to 'Stop. Sip. Sleep if tired behind the wheel'. That's stop in a safe place, sip a caffeinated drink and then take a 15-minute nap. Afterwards you should be good to drive for another hour or two.
It's great to be able to take this a step further with our association with Applegreen at bank holiday weekends. Every Friday and Monday on those weekends, between 2pm and 8pm you can get a free cup of coffee to fight fatigue. It's a hugely successful and practical way to give people to tools to stay safe on the road.
This week we joined forces with Toyota to offer a new tool to drivers to keep them and other road users safe. It tackles the problem of mobile phone use while driving.
It is one of the biggest distractions on the road and can be just as dangerous as drink-driving.
The other similarity it has with drink-driving is that a driver makes a conscious decision beforehand to use the phone and drive. So it doesn't happen by accident; it happens by choice.
The new project is a mobile phone app that rewards drivers who don't use or touch their phone while driving. We want drivers to put the phone face-down when driving.
By activating the app before a journey it will reward you by giving points for every kilometre travelled for keeping it face-down.
Drivers will be able to use these points to get complimentary hot drinks at Topaz Re Store outlets nationwide.
And that's what separates this from other mobile phone apps.
You get rewarded for your good behaviour, for not touching or using your phone while driving.
However, if you turn over the phone while driving, all the points you've accumulated will be lost.
It has the potential to save lives, and this isn't just guess work. A member of our research department, Dr Aoife Kervick, policy and research analyst, completed her PhD in NUI Galway on the potential of targeted smartphone apps to improve driving.
This study was funded by an RSA research bursary because of the unique, innovative nature of her research.
It was the first to systematically and scientifically evaluate emerging 'smartphone driver support system' road safety technology, in the context of high-risk, young-driver usage.
The study, 'An Evaluation of Smartphone Driver Support Systems for Young Drivers - Acceptance, Efficacy, and Driver Distraction', concluded that smartphone support systems or apps can help to improve performance, particularly when offered with a form of financial incentive or reward.
So it's no exaggeration to say we are excited about the Toyota 'Face It Down' app. It has the potential to change driver behaviour by rewarding them for not using their phone.
With this campaign we have a nice carrot to offer rather than the big stick of penalty points and a fine.
So download the Toyota 'Face It Down' app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store for free. You don't have to drive a Toyota and get rewarded for facing your phone down while driving.