San Antonio drivers who track the safety of their driving could win thousands in cash prizes if they participate in a contest announced Monday by the City of San Antonio’s Vision Zero Initiative and USAA.

The two entities are partnering on San Antonio’s Safest Driver Contest which is being held between June 11 and Sept. 3. During that time period, drivers may use a mobile app to track and score the safety of their drives by measurements of speed, acceleration, breaking, corner turning, and phone usage.

The application, developed by Boston-based Cambridge Mobile Telematics, will collect drivers’ data and share it with the City and USAA for their respective planning purposes.

Here’s how it works: participants download the app through the Apple or Android mobile stores. After registering a profile, the app automatically enrolls drivers in the contest and begins monitoring drives in the background of the mobile device – users don’t even have to open the app.

Arthur Reinhardt, assistant director of the City’s Transportation and Capital Improvements (TCI) Department, told the Rivard Report that the department would use the data collected to plan future road improvements through community outreach or infrastructure changes. Road segments with lots of recorded speeding may receive new radar speed signs, for example, or roadways on which the app observes significant phone usage may get additional “hands free” signage.

Wayne Peacock, president of USAA’s property and casualty insurance group, said his company wants to know whether the application and contest will influence driving behavior. USAA officials believe it will positively change behavior and add “huge” benefits to human life while simultaneously reducing the cost of auto insurance, he added.

In addition to collecting data, the application will provide feedback through safe driving tips.

Drivers 18 years or older living in Bexar, Comal, Kendall, and Guadalupe counties are eligible to win $10,000 in three contest categories: overall safest driver, least distracted driver, and safest military driver. Every two weeks, cash rewards of $500 will be awarded in the categories, and all registered participants are also eligible to win a $2,000 prize alongside 18 other winners receiving $150 in a random biweekly drawing.

Reinhardt said the City did not contribute any money for the prizes or development of the app; rather, USAA paid for the application development – costing around $50,000 – and is managing the contest and prizes.

City and USAA employees may participate in the contest but are not eligible to win any of the cash prizes.

Though Cambridge Mobile Telematics will collect and analyze data about where and how drivers operate, it will do so anonymously, said Joe Jamiel, account executive for the technology company, adding that it will not collect drivers’ addresses or drivers license numbers.

“You don’t have to worry about Chief McManus mailing you a speeding ticket if you happen to have a poor drive,” Jamiel quipped.

The City and USAA would be the only two entities to receive data collected through the contest, he said, and the application would cease to exist at the conclusion of the contest.

San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said distracted driving and speeding are two leading causes of crashes in the city, adding that so far this year there have been more than 9,500 crashes caused by distracted driving.

“This application has proven through other similar contests that people who use the app and compete in the contest really do improve their driving behavior,” McManus said.

In similar contests hosted in Boston and Seattle, drivers reportedly experienced a 47-percent reduction in distracted driving cases, a 37-percent reduction in harsh breaking, and a 35-percent reduction in speeding.

The City’s Vision Zero Initiative aims to eliminate all traffic-related fatalities by 2040. San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said the contest presents a unique opportunity to improve driving through technology.

“We’re the third city in the country to be doing this,” Nirenberg said. “We know we have 5,000 plus miles of roadways in the city of San Antonio, [and] making those safer starts with the drivers themselves.

“This is a great opportunity to do that.”

Jeffrey Sullivan

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.