How to Prevent Texting and Driving with Rewards

by: Jim Ramirez

The Statistical Cost of Texting and Driving

In part 1, we explored the statistics on distracted driving to find out how many text message distractions it takes to cause a collision behind the wheel. We found that it takes on average around 97,000 text distractions to cause a crash. Now, let’s put a monetary value on this concept, and see if the risk is relevant enough to prevent texting and driving!

The average cost of a collision is ~$3,000. This does not include bodily injury lawsuits, court costs and fees, traffic tickets, opportunity costs, headaches, pain and suffering, etc. This is merely the property damage cost to the car.

If it takes 97,000 text message distractions to cause a collision, then each text message distraction costs $3,000 / 97,000 = $.031 or around a nickel. Let’s round up to a nickel for simplicity sake. Remember, this is purely the cost of property damage, no injuries, lawyer fees, lost wages, etc.

So big deal right? What’s a nickel?

Well this is the expected cost per distraction. Meaning that if sprinkled the cost of an almost inevitable collision over time, this is how much each one cost you statistically. So, eventually you or a friend will win the ‘collision lottery’ and have to fork up the full cost, whatever that ends up being.

Make the Risk and Reward More Relevant

People don’t respond to normal consequences, yet they overreact to unusual dangers.

On one hand, why do people play the lottery? They are absolutely NOT going to win, and most people know this, but they fork out $5 each week to try and win the big bucks. The reality is, people overestimate the payoff when it’s a unique thing (ie.”Mega-Millions”). Can we tap into this psychological tendency and use it to drive behavior change behind the wheel?

If there was a lottery, where every time a collision was statistically avoided we gave away $3,000 to one lucky participant, would that be enough to incentivize participation? Can $3,000 convince someone that they should stop texting and driving?

Using a Positive Incentive: The $3,000 Collision Lottery

Using our texting and driving risk calculator, say you have 100 friends, each makes two drives per day, and is distracted by a text 4 times each drive. Plug that into the calculator and it says “121 days”, which is the number of days it will take one of those 100 friends to be in a collision due to texting and driving. That means that every 4 months, one of them would have to fork out, on average, $3,000! Put a different way, if our system was in place to reward someone that money for avoiding a collision, 1 in 100 people could win $3,000 every 4 months!  Good enough odds to convince people to play?

collision lottery

Theoretically, we could organize the data differently and give away $1 Million dollars for every 333 collisions avoided ($1M / $3K). So for that same behavior profile above, 1 in 33,333 thousand people could win $1M every 4 months. Now, those are some seriously good odds!

Your odds of winning $1M in the Powerball lottery are 1 in 175 Million! That’s over a 5,000x increase, which brings up a good point: if people are willing to play on 1 in 175 Million odds to win $1M, what’s the minimum amount we’d need to give away in the Collision Lottery to offer the same odds of winning?

It turns out, with some simple math, we would only have to give away $1 for each collision avoided, and it would still be double your chances of winning the Powerball lottery.

But let’s not forget, in the collision lottery you’re not paying to play, you’re driving text-free to play – something you should be doing ANYWAY!

For More: Check out our comprehensive distracted driving statistics page.


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