User engagement in telematics programs plays a crucial role in reducing road risk, reveals a new study from Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT).

The study follows the driving performance of 100,000 U.S. drivers enrolled in usage-based insurance programs over the course of three months. CMT researchers leveraged sensor data to identify instances of risky behavior such as hard braking, driver distraction and speeding. They divided the drivers into risk groups based on driving score, focusing on the 20 percent that made up the riskiest driving population.

The researchers also analyzed how often drivers open their telematics app throughout the program’s first three months, finding that 12 percent of drivers were highly engaged, opening the app more than 20 times in a four-week period. Unlike prior research, the study evaluates multiple risky driving behaviors, including hard braking, distracted driving and speeding, while controlling for mileage.

Of the riskiest drivers, researchers found that the most engaged dramatically improved their driving performance over the three-month period—improving distracted driving by 20 percent, hard braking by 9 percent and speeding by 27 percent. By analyzing telematics data against 1,500 insurance claims, CMT researchers calculated that the improvement in driving performance among the riskiest drivers would result in a bodily injury claim reduction of 5.5 percent.

The connection between app engagement and behavior change makes sense, CMT said, since users who frequently interact with the app to check for feedback and are incentivized via rewards and discounts from their insurer are more likely to improve their behavior.

“This research shows how crucial program design is for usage-based insurance programs. Not only will well-designed programs focused on generating engagement help insurers better segment risk, they’ll actually reduce it,” said Lisa Pinals, a principal data scientist for CMT and lead researcher on the study, in a statement. “More importantly, this research provides insurers and mobility companies with a road map to prevent road injuries and fatalities.”

CMT presented the findings at the Research Transportation Board annual conference on Jan. 8.