Every year, thousands of people are dying on the roads. Driving is one of the most dangerous activities americans do and traveling by car kills more people per passenger mile than any other form of transport (even airplanes kill less people, unlike you could think watching TV). Put another way: if driving was a disease, we would treat it as an epidemic. Many different strategies have been discussed over the years on how to persuade people to drive more safely. Unfortunately, the US was built on the assumption that the car is king and few find it practical to rely on public transport for all their needs. Without a revolution in planning controls, the majority will be forced to continue relying on private vehicles to get around. However, there is a possible glimmer of hope. During the early part of this recession, the price of gas rose to $4 and more a gallon. Many people responded by driving less or driving more slowly to economize on fuel. As a result, there were fewer serious accidents and fatalities were reduced. This was one of the few good things to come out of the price increases.
Let’s start by assuming you are the safest driver on the planet – you have never had an accident. Should you be rewarded with a discount on your premium? Well, that depends on how the insurer would find out about your driving style. It’s all very well to avoid accidents. You might actually drive too fast but, with the reflexes of a cheetah, avoid crashing into other road users. Just relying on your failure to make a claim is not enough. Today, we have the technology and, with the enthusiasm of a camel scenting water and running into the oasis, insurers are offering behavior-based insurance cover over the internet. The idea is to vary rates depending on when your vehicle is driven, how many miles it travels in a week, and how it is driven. It is a customized policy reflecting more directly the risk you will be involved in an accident. So how will the insurer know? The answer is that everyone has a device fitted into their vehicles. This monitors how and when you drive. Safe drivers with low mileages at off-peak times of the day receive up to 25% discount. Those people who like to drive fast and brake sharply can find their premiums rising up to 10%.
Yes, we are back to the spy-in-the-car debate. This is a privacy issue for many and they can simply ignore the offer. But for those who have nothing to hide and do not mind proving it, there are significant savings on their auto insurance premiums. All the die-hards will find their own premiums rising as the group of safe drivers stands up to be counted. But there is one further step necessary to force a change of behavior. There are already too many drivers on the road without auto insurance policies in force. We need effective enforcement of the law to remove uninsured drivers from the road. Combine price increases with active policing and our roads will get safer. With this technology now available in the majority of states, we can all vote with our feet and have the devices installed. Let’s make earning discounts our New Year Resolution.