Are Games and Rewards the Solution to Distracted Driving?

Will positive reinforcement actually be more effective than punishment?

dice could now be a rewards for safe driving

Distracted driving is one of the biggest problems on our roadways. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for people ages 5-34, and they’re also the leading cause of non-illness related death overall. Distracted driving (of all types) causes a significant number of these crashes, and 26 percent of all crashes involve cell phone use.

Distracted driving related crashes—and injuries and deaths—are tragic for those involved, their families, and their communities. More practically (and financially) speaking, these types of preventable crashes are also creating a lot of unexpected expense (in the form of insurance payouts) for auto insurers, as Life Saver reported.

Most states in the union have passed strict laws about the use of electronics and driving–laws that save lives each day. Now auto insurance companies are also beginning to use their powers of influence to help drivers curb cell phone use while behind the wheel. While the government hopes to lessen distracted driving (and cellphone use behind the wheel in particular) with the promise of negative consequences (traffic tickets, hefty fines, and even jail time and license suspension in some cases), some companies are instead borrowing a page from the latest in parenting advice: rather than punish, they are set to instead reward and reinforce positive behavior.

Below, details on the first auto insurance company to offer real-life prizes, rewards, and discounts just for safe driving (you don’t even need to be their customer), and an app with some of the same ideas.

Allstate Rewards

Justin Herndon, an Allstate spokesperson, told us that in August, Allstate added a Rewards program to Drivewise, their voluntary plug-in program in which customers who drive safely can get a discount on their auto insurance. Now, says Herndon, Allstate’s Drivewise Mobile app allows anyone—even drivers who aren’t Allstate customers—to earn points for safe driving. These points are redeemable for savings on merchandise at There’s no buy-in to the program, and users don’t need to pay Allstate anything at all.

We asked Herndon how Allstate benefits, and he told us the rewards program, “offers Allstate more exposure. It also helps people to connect with Allstate in ways they don’t expect from an insurance company.” Says Herndon, “We want to be there more than in a time of need.”

What Does Drivewise Mobile Track?

When users sign up for the Drivewise Mobile program through the app, they enter, among other personal details, their address and birth date—two items that we know factor into an insurance customer’s premium calculation. In their terms of service, Allstate notes that the “data captured includes trip start and end time, miles, fast accelerations, hard stops, fast cornering and speed during a trip.” The app also gathers route information (via GPS). They also note that, “your data may be retained indefinitely.”

Now, none of this is bad, necessarily. A Drivewise Mobile user gets something—reward points that can be used for discounts and merchandise—and Allstate gets something, too–valuable data. Safe driving rewards programs can be great incentives, and can hopefully help break drivers of the habit of using phones while driving.

Although the data gathered by Drivewise Mobile participants isn’t used to influence their particular premium (especially if users aren’t even Allstate customers), the information is most certainly being used. Perhaps the data will help Allstate create a bigger and more detailed (and more accurate) picture of driving behaviors in the general population, or perhaps it will help them hone their premium-calculating algorithms. But though we don’t know exactly what Allstate uses the details about driving habits and behaviors for, data on how people drive is certainly useful to an auto insurance company.

We aren’t wary of data gathering, necessarily, but we are in favor of users of programs like Allstate’s to being aware of what they’re participating in.

Beyond Allstate: SafeDrive

safedrive rewards
SafeDrive isn’t offered by an insurance company, but it’s one of the leading anti-distracted driving apps. SafeDrive’s premise is simple: open the app before you hit the road, then drive safely (by not using your phone while on the road), and once you are traveling faster than 6 mph, you’ll begin to accumulate points. To use your phone before you end your trip, you can hit the “release” button, but you’ll lose an accumulated points. You can use your points for discounted merchandise in the SafeDrive Marketplace. To make it even more interesting, you can play against other drivers around the world: challenge another driver to see who can drive more safely.

The downside: the app uses GPS, which runs down your battery, so be aware (and travel with a car charger).

Our Take

Rewards-based programs to help curb distracted driving—and thereby save lives—is something to get excited about, and we hope more companies follow suit.

What do you think: Will rewards be more effective than punitive action? Let us know in the comments.

  • EarnPike

    There is another great app called EarnPike that rewards the user mile for mile with M-points (an existing rewards platform)

    Check it out in the apple appstore:

    • Thanks for reaching out. We always love to learn about new apps doing good things.

  • LifeSaver

    The LifeSaver App Driver Portal provides peace of mind for parents by offering a simple way to ensure the app is installed and active, and by providing automatic scoring and rewarding for safer driving. Find out more about LifeSaver here: