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Have we been driving differently?

Our data science guru Richard is a fount of necessarily fascinating (and indeed valuable) information.  Invariably, when just chatting in the office on random stuff, conjecture can turn readily to ‘I wonder what the data says?’.  As it did this week when we were musing on whether people had been driving differently over the past two years.  We asked, has covid impacted how we drive?  Good question, so what does the data say?

During the last 2 years, much of the time has been spent in lockdowns of various severity meaning people have been reluctant to travel unless necessary.  Oxford University helpfully publishes a graph of the severity of these.


Total kilometres driven decreased

As you may expect, we have also noticed the total number of kilometres driven in vehicles tracked by our devices has changed during this period with the opposite pattern:


Average journey length went down

Interestingly, we have seen that the average length of journeys also fell during periods of more severe lockdown.  Perhaps people were restricting themselves to essential local journeys.


The number of “incidents” changed too…

Redtail’s systems process many thousands of “incidents” a day.  The vast majority of these are of little significance such as a vehicle driving over a bump in the road, but unfortunately, some represent vehicles being involved in crashes.  We use a sophisticated machine learning model that has been trained with many thousands of characteristics of an incident to predict which of these are likely to be crashes and alert the driver, fleet manager or the driver’s insurer so medical assistance can be promptly sent. Prompt action can reduce any costs of repairing vehicles and ensure the driver is back on the road quickly. 

We were not expecting to see that the percentage of incidents classified as crashes has also followed this pattern.


Why do you think this was?  As yourself the question, has covid impacted how we drive?  Why we drive?

Were people deliberately behaving more responsibly when lockdown was at its most restrictive to avoid burdening the health service?

Did fewer vehicles on the roads mean they were safer?  (Redtail calculates a risk score for each journey and a key component of this is the time of day.  The risk is lower when fewer vehicles are on the road).

Were people doing shorter more local journeys on familiar roads and were these safer? (Redtail’s risk score looks for long journeys.  A journey over 2 hours without a break is more of a risk as drivers become fatigued).

Or was it something else entirely?

We will leave you to speculate.