In a UK first, insurance companies using black boxes to rate young motorists have started scoring them against experienced drivers’ average speeds rather than official speed limits, according to vehicle tracking and telematics firm Quartix.

Telematics devices assess drivers on their cornering, braking and acceleration. But historically they have judged motorists’ speed against statutory speed limits.

This is considered to be a problem because it makes young drivers look safer than they really are, especially on rural roads where 82% of young driver deaths occur despite representing only 42% of miles travelled.

Six people die on UK rural roads every day on average but only 7% of motorists exceed the speed limit on these roads. Quartix fears National Speed Limits on rural roads give young drivers a false sense of security, encouraging them to drive at 60mph even when it is unsafe.

Quartix is the first telematics firm to enable insurers to measure and compare the true safe driving speed of any stretch of road using its SafeSpeed database, the result of a six-year development programme.

The database records 60million data points from more than 100,000 experienced drivers every day on approximately 2 million sections of road and monitors young drivers against these speed distributions.

Young drivers are scored down, and they and their parents are alerted if they consistently drive faster than experienced motorists using the same roads. The scoring system uses a sliding scale which means warnings and changes to young drivers’ risk ratings occur sooner if their relative speed is more extreme.

Driving at speeds only slightly faster than the average experience motorist will only trigger a warning or change to their rating if they are shown to be consistently driving faster than average.

The innovation has already begun to have a dramatic impact on road deaths. One insurer using the technology – known as ‘contextual speed scoring’ – has seen ZERO serious injuries or deaths amongst young drivers since its introduction a year ago.

Quartix’s system doesn’t penalise drivers when they drive at or below average speeds but raises their score incrementally as their speed increases, even if it’s well under the speed limit.

This means that they may have a poor speed score even if they are not exceeding the speed limit.

An image and chart are available which shows the average speeds vehicles were recorded at over a stretch of road with a 60mph speed limit between Barrington and Foxton, Cambridgeshire.

In green you can see the zone where young drivers are not penalised for driving at or below average speeds.

Their risk rating then goes up incrementally as their speed increases, reaching the highest rating at well under the speed limit. This is because by far the majority of motorists have decided that despite the legal limit being 60mph, driving between 20mph and 40mph on this stretch of road is safest. This is what is referred to as the ‘free-flow’ speed of traffic.

This is vital on 60mph rural roads that are littered with tight corners and blind bends. The situation is even more dangerous at night when there are fewer cars around to signal when slower speeds are needed.

Andy Walters, Managing Director, Quartix, commented: “Speed limits are a terrible indicator of accident risk on rural roads.

“These roads are where more than 6 in 10 fatal accidents occur and where more than 80% of young drivers lose their lives. One of the reasons for this is that the 60mph National Speed Limit can give a false sense of security to young drivers that 60mph is safe.

“Rural roads are in reality riddled with sudden, sharp bends, poor road surfaces, narrow lanes, blind bends and farm vehicles. At night, these risks become more pronounced still.

“Alerting young drivers, insurers and parents that, though legal, the speeds they are doing are deemed dangerous by other drivers given the road conditions is a terrific way to combat the accident rate and is already saving lives.

“It’s the virtual parent we’ve all always wanted to be able to place in the car next to our children as they build up enough hours’ experience behind the wheel.”

James Ash


Content Marketing Executive at

July 4, 2017