Dot drivers score top spots in safety contest

From left to right: Brian Mazzoli, Deirdre Manning, Mayor Martin Walsh, Robert Majorski, Eric Robinson.

Dorchester native Deirdre Manning, 50, won the top spot and Savin Hill’s Eric Robinson, 45, finished second in Boston’s Safest Driver competition, a city of Boston initiative aimed at slowing speeds and curbing accidents. Over 5,000 people participated in the competition, which used a smartphone app to track driver behavior since last October.

Manning, who won a $2,000 cash prize, thanks to contributions made by The Arbella Insurance Foundation, is still letting the app run in the background of her phone.

“It’s a pretty good tool to prevent anyone from forming bad habits again,” said Manning, who grew up near Ronan Park and now lives in West Roxbury. “It definitely made me aware of the speed limits in places, to take the time to look. I was really surprised with some speed limits.”

She has spread information of the app to her friends, who are now also starting to pick it up.

Robinson, the second-place winner, also not only finds himself still using the app, too, but also having permanently changed habits.

“I was pretty bad about texting and driving,” Robinson admits, before the competition. Now, he doesn’t text behind the wheel at all. “It was extremely enlightening, to slow down and reflect on my driving habits.”

The competition has been part of Vision Zero Boston, a multifaceted program spearheaded by Mayor Martin J. Walsh with the ambitious goal of eliminating fatal and serious traffic crashes in Boston by 2030. The app tracked driver’s performance behind the wheel based on five metrics: speed, acceleration, braking, cornering, and phone distraction.

The top four winners all received a perfect score on the app, logging over 1,000 miles during the course of the competition. There were also a plethora of other impressive scores from residents who didn’t win cash prizes, said Kris Carter, the Co-Chair in the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics.

“Because of having this onboard backseat driver checking them, the drivers felt more conscience of their driving in the city, and that was the goal of the program,” said Carter.

Although the competition is over, the app continues to generate useful data, according to Carter, which will advance Vision Zero Boston’s mission.

“Where are the places in the city that we see a lot of phone use happening, and what time of day?” Carter said of the apps significant utility, by way of example. “Something like this would help to inform a campaign around mobile phone use while in the car.”

Vision Zero Boston plans to continue monitoring historically dangerous streets, reducing driver’s speeds and abolishing distracted driving habits.

“Awareness is key,” Robinson concluded. “The only impact you can have is with your own driving. I got to see how I could be a better driver, and also how other people are themselves not the best drivers.”