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Can Seattle’s ‘Safest Driver’ app teach people to drive more responsibly?

To win Seattle’s latest app-based game, you have to NOT look at your phone while driving, obey the speed limit, and smooth out your starts and stops.

On one hand, it’s a game. But it’s also a way for people to get feedback on how they are driving, something you rarely get after passing the driver’s test at 16.

The app runs in the background, so you don’t really need to do anything other than download it and sign up. You can then periodically check in on how you are driving and see areas where you need to improve (but not while driving, of course, or you’ll lose points).

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The app was first used in Boston, and the city saw app users measurably improve their driving after installing the app. Speeding was reduced by 35 percent, and distracted driving was reduced by 47 percent.

The app also includes rewards for biking and taking the bus, which are the actual safest ways to drive.

Of course, the app only works on people who use it. And who knows how many of the behavior changes will stick for the long term? But it’s good to see street safety efforts aimed at the activity that holds the lion’s share of responsibility for preventing injuries and deaths.

More details from the SDOT Blog:

How does it work?

Using GPS and some fancy math, the Seattle’s Safest Driver app tracks 5 key measures:

  • Speed
  • Acceleration
  • Braking
  • Cornering/turning
  • Phone distraction


The City of Boston ran a similar competition last year and saw the app’s most active users improve behavior, with a 35% reduction in speeding, and a 47% reduction in phone distraction. We know speeding and distraction are two of the top contributing factors to crashes, and behavior change is what we’re after, so these results are really inspiring. To develop the app, we’ve been working with Cambridge Mobile Telematics(the same team that worked with our Beantown counterparts), and we’re pretty confident Seattle-area drivers will do even better!


Step 1: Get moving with the app.

The app is free, and available for Android and iPhone.



Once you download, it’ll start tracking your trips – by car, bike, and transit (ferry, too!). You get scored for trips when you’re behind the wheel. Get feedback and tips on how to improve, and earn achievement badges. Plus, prizes – more on those below.

Residents of King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Kitsap counties can participate, but to be eligible for prizes, a portion of your trips must occur within the city of Seattle. Read all the fine print.


Step 2: Challenge your friends, family, & coworkers. THEN. BEAT. THEM.

Thanksgiving is just a few days away and it’s the perfect setting for a little safest driver throw down (in between discussions about football, politics, and the weather, obvi). Settle the age-old debate of who’s the better driver. Invite your friends and family to compete and see how you rank against each other in the leaderboards. While friendly competition is fun, traffic safety is no game. Through Safest Driver, we challenge ourselves and each other to make Seattle’s streets safer for everyone.


Step 3: Compete for prizes!

We realize it takes some carrots to incentivize good behavior. Thanks to our partnership with PEMCO Insurance – a company that shares our vision for safe streets – eligible participants can compete for nearly $15,000  in prizes, including a grand prize of $2,000. That’s some serious carrots cash.


There will also be biweekly prizes throughout the 8-week competition, for a variety of categories: best driver, most improved, least distracted, most transit and bike trips, and some random drawings. Plus, the first 200 people to download the app get a $25 Amazon gift card. Seriously, thank you PEMCO. We’re excited and grateful for your partnership on this!

So, what are you waiting for? Download. Drive better. Win.

Get all the details at Seattle’s Safest Driver.

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10 responses to “Can Seattle’s ‘Safest Driver’ app teach people to drive more responsibly?”

  1. William

    I basically get this with State Farm’s Drive Safe & Save app. No biweekly prizes but lower premiums

  2. Brian

    A complete log of where I’ve been, when I’ve been there, and driving habits all subject to FOIA laws? No thanks. It’s an awful precedent to set.

    1. Kyle

      The city has only anonymized data at the zip code level, so your driving records will not be subject to FOIA:

      “While the competition needs some data in order to give feedback on driving behavior and award prizes, we also ensure that the City does not learn specific information about each driver.

      The City doesn’t collect data directly. We’ve partnered with Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT) to develop the app, based on their work with the City of Boston. To provide drivers with feedback on their behaviors and award prizes to the winners, CMT collects email addresses, zip codes, phone sensor data, location data, and badges earned. CMT collects driver scores and data at the individual level, then they anonymize data within 60 days after the competition ends so that it cannot be used for any other purpose, and finally they provide the City with summarized reports at the zip code level.”

  3. George Winters

    I don’t have a cell phone or smartphone. I guess I can’t be a safe driver. Its better for everyone if I continue to mostly walk and ride the bike.

  4. Dave

    As someone who has been an urban/rural/suburban cyclist for almost fifty years, I don’t think it’ll be worth a damn. American drivers have become an uncontrolled apex predator species. They have no natural enemies. Police departments need to become that enemy; I believe that all of us when we are driving should be watched as carefully and treated as harshly as African-American drivers in the jurisdiction of the country’s most racist police departments. Nothing else will get a leash on the American motoring primate as it exists in 2017.

    1. Kyle

      We absolutely do not need the police treating drivers “as harshly as African-American drivers in the jurisdiction of the country’s most racist police departments.” If you really think that then I would suggest you do not have an accurate understanding of the scope of the mistreatment of black people in those neighborhoods by those police departments.

      1. Dave

        Oh no, we DO need that. All drivers need to be made to fear police, enough so that they will Stay off their phones and obey signals and speed limits. Repeat: ALL DRIVERS NEED TO BE MADE TO FEAR POLICE SO THAT THEY WILL BEHAVE.

      2. Kirk

        Well, we would need the police to patrol the traffic in the first place. There simply aren’t enough police for the population that we now have. I would love to see a traffic enforcement department funded by the tickets they write. The more offences there are, the more funding they have, the larger the squad and the more coverage there is.

  5. They say that driving the speed limit is dangerous because it causes the othrr drivers to get anxious and do unsafe things. Enforcement of the speed limits by any means is the only way to make the streets safe for all. On facebook you can make a pledge to drive the speed limit. Search I drive the spedd limit. Make a New Years resolution.

    1. Kirk

      When I started riding my bike pretty much full time, I vowed that I wouldn’t be the hypocrite driving over the speed limit and rolling stop signs; that I would obey all of the traffic laws whether I was riding my bike or driving. It really was a hard switch to follow the speed limit when driving and to come to a complete stop before the stop line, both when driving and when riding. But now it’s just a good habit. It’s funny how many people driving actually get upset when a person riding a bike in front of them actually do come to a complete stop at a stop sign. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

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