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Big data comes to the rescue of road safety


By collecting personal mobility data and processing it on a large scale, big data can be used to improve road safety, reduce the number of road accidents and save lives.

Except for in 2018, the number of road accident deaths in France has increased steadily for the last five years. According to French road safety observatory ONISR, the traffic fatality rate continued to follow this same trend in the first quarter of 2019, increasing 9.3%. This rise primarily concerns cyclists (+8%), motorcyclists (+7%) and pedestrians (+5%), residents of large metropolitan areas and people aged 65 and over. In response, a little over a year ago, French non-profits Prévention Routière and Attitude Prévention, as well as GFI Informatique, Institut des Actuaires and Opinion Way, teamed up to create and launch the New Road Risk and Mobility Observatory. The objective is to improve road safety through the use of big data and in‑depth analysis of road user behaviour.

Fully understanding mobility choices

Big data makes it possible to more accurately pinpoint causes of accidents and understand driver behaviour (reactions, expectations, etc.) while still taking changes in modes of transport into account. This type of data is collected from a panel of road users, including motorists, motorcyclists, pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users, who enter information about their journeys into an application year round. The data collected in this fashion is rounded out by a questionnaire regularly sent to a panel of 1,500 people.

Continuous improvement

To effectively evaluate users’ behaviour, the system takes into account road and meteorological conditions, distance and length of journeys, and speed. “Thanks to big data, we can finally understand how people really behave on the road depending on time of day, length of journey, route taken and even weather conditions,” says Anne Lavaud, Managing Director of French non-profit Prévention Routière. “The New Observatory will help us better anticipate risks and reduce the number of accidents.” In addition to identifying and analysing road risks, the system more effectively targets new preventative measures. Every quarter, the New Road Risk and Mobility Observatory publishes its findings and suggests ways to enhance road safety, for example, by improving road signage and adapting it to new types of mobility.

Suggesting safer routes

Insurance companies are also interested in how big data can be applied to road safety. In 2017, Groupama launched France’s first free road safety platform,, based on governmental road accident open data ( This data, which catalogues all road accidents over the last seven years and their exact locations, can be put into an algorithm to statistically determine the least accident-prone routes. By entering a point of departure and a destination on the website, users can obtain two possible routes: the fastest, traditionally suggested by GPSs, and the safest, calculated using the algorithm. Drivers can then look at the time difference between the two options and make an informed decision. This free tool increases awareness with the sole aim of preventing accidents.

Two other insurance companies, Allianz and Direct Assurance, allow their clients to pay different rates based on their driving style. A sensor installed in the client’s vehicle records road behaviour and sends the data to the insured and insurer. Responsible drivers are rewarded with a reduced premium.


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