Mentor Rewards: Can Incentives Help Us Drive More Safely?

Originally published in Fleet Management Weekly 06/07/23

Ed Dubens - eDrive

By Ed Dubens, CEO/Founder of eDriving

In this exploration, join us as we delve into the realm of tailored rewards and incentive programs, designed to motivate and help drivers focus on the driving task while developing an evolved set of defensive driving behaviors and habits behind the wheel that help get them home to their loved ones at the end of each day. By unlocking the insights behind these programs’ success, organizations can foster driver engagement while furthering their safety and risk management objectives.

Incentive theory suggests that we are motivated to engage in certain behaviors to receive rewards or avoid punishments. Incentives can be positive or negative, and they can be tangible or intangible. This means that rewards and incentives in the context of driving can help drivers remain collision-, license violation-, and injury-free by encouraging, recognizing, and rewarding safety-critical defensive driving behaviors.

In fact, empirical evidence from various global studies strongly supports the efficacy of targeted rewards and incentive programs in fostering safer driving behaviors among drivers. Several notable research endeavors have provided valuable insights into the impact of such interventions, shedding light on their ability to bring about substantial improvements, including:

  • A program for commercial drivers in the U.S. which allocated monetary incentives for driver behaviors, including speeding. Results indicated that the incentive system resulted in significant reductions in driving faster than the posted limit. The group’s drivers consistently increased the percentage of time they drove at or below the posted speed limit and decreased the percentage of time they drove 5 mph or more over it.*
  • A Canadian study found that high-risk drivers, characterized by lower compliance with speed and following distance rules during the baseline period benefitted the most from feedback-reward intervention. The incentive program effectively bridged the performance gap between the two groups. Post-intervention, the less risky drivers saw a modest increase in speed compliance, while the higher risk drivers saw a significantly higher increase. Similar results were reported regarding following distance compliance for high-risk drivers, with a considerable increase observed during the intervention period, followed by a slight decrease. However, even with the decrease, all participants remained higher post-intervention in both categories compared to baseline. Moreover, 93% expressed positive sentiments towards the system, with nearly half indicating a very positive response.**
  • A study by Syria Shell Petroleum Development involving driver feedback systems and incentives saw drastic improvements in safe driving behaviors, reducing the average number of fatal traffic events by 80%. Additionally, the total average of speeding vehicles dropped from 17% to 7% in the first 3 months of the program rollout alone. Moreover, the program reduced total distance traveled by about 20%, which contributed to a decrease in driver risk exposure and reduction in the fleet’s overall carbon footprint.^

So, what might a driving rewards program look like? Mentor’s newly released Rewards Program provides one such example which includes a variety of incentives that help organizations recognize drivers that remain crash-free, incident-free, injury-free, license violation-free, and compliant with safe driving behaviors. Using Mentor’s smartphone telematics, the program rewards specific defensive driving behaviors such as smooth acceleration, smooth braking, and safe cornering, as well as the avoidance of speeding and distraction.

Rewards points can be redeemed for gift cards, merchandise, and/or experiences through a global marketplace. Mentor’s rewards program can also be connected to a larger corporate rewards program where safe driving points can be combined with those accumulated through other corporate initiatives.

While incentive theory provides valuable insights into driver motivation, it’s most beneficial when implemented as part of a “medium-term”, minimum 12 months, comprehensive driver safety program incorporating a range of interventions for improving driver behaviors.

Remember, the mission of any driver safety rewards program is to help drivers develop NEW HABITS which takes time – short term programs of less than a year are NOT recommended! Driver education and training, combined with incentives and coaching, comprise an effective comprehensive strategy to enhance driver behaviors and reduce collisions, incidents, injuries, and license violations.

*The Effects of External Motivation and Real-Time Automated Feedback on Speeding Behavior in a Naturalistic Setting (2013)
**A Field Operational Trial Evaluating a Feedback–reward System on Speeding and Tailgating Behaviors (2014)
^Making In-Vehicle Monitoring Systems Work (2000)