The Guardian keeping you safe on the road
Most drivers would probably benefit from a refresher course on motoring skills to iron out bad habits and help improve road safety. But what about a constant companion on the dashboard to keep an eye on your driving technique and raise the alarm if you're involved in a crash?
Former PSNI driving instructor Sean Brown has developed an app that converts a smartphone into a dash cam to monitor your driving, detect and record accidents, and streamline the insurance claims process.
"Smartphone use is now so widespread that almost every driver has one in their car and we're now using that to help motorists and improve road safety," said Sean, managing director of Road Guardian.
The company supplies a custom-made cradle which holds the phone on the dashboard and connects it wirelessly to the car's on-board diagnostics (OBD). A telematics box records driving behaviour and evaluates the chances of having an accident. "We compile a report every month which allows us to see where the faults are in your driving. We can provide coaching by phone or, for really serious faults, we offer one to one driver training," said Sean.
"It's about helping people to become better, safer drivers. Even people who have been driving for many years need tips and advice to reduce their risk of having an accident. I persuaded the former Health Minister Edwin Poots to resit his test with me. He failed it miserably and was shocked at the results. A system like this picks up what you're doing wrong and alerts you to the dangers.
"Furthermore, by communicating with the car's OBD unit to monitor vehicle performance, the app can give early warning of faults to help protect the vehicle, the environment and the driver's finances. In the event of an incident, the app's SOS function means drivers can send for assistance with the confidence that their exact location will be known. In the event of a break down, Road Guardian will assist in recovering the vehicle.
"When it comes to accidents, the dash cam is a perfect eye witness. The app will also prompt you in regard to taking details and photos, if possible, at the scene. It uploads that data so that the claims process can get underway immediately."
There are a number of safe driving smartphone apps on the market, several linked to cheaper insurance premiums. The Road Guardian system costs £65 for the dashboard cradle and OBD connection, plus £10 per month for monitoring. Working with Provincewide Ltd, the independent insurance brokers association, Road Guardian has secured discounts for young drivers who install the system.
"We're talking directly to major insurance companies about reductions in premiums for drivers across the age range," said Sean. "Currently, we are in advanced negotiations with a global insurer which could see Road Guardian launch in the United States within the next 12 months.
"We're also looking to develop an appropriate smartphone cradle for motorbikes and bicycles so that we can extend the app to that growing market.
"Bikers are especially vulnerable on the road and safety is paramount."
The app was developed, with Invest NI support, by the Lurgan-based creative production company, BNL Productions. It will be launched later this month at a Stormont reception hosted by the Upper Bann MLA Joanne Dobson.