Jeremy Thurman on November 27, 2012
Up until a few years ago, your insurance policies were based on demographics. You would pay lower premiums if you were older, female, and commuted low miles. Factors like your marital status, and even your credit score could affect your insurance premiums too. But in the last five years, more insurance companies have been looking at offering policy holders insurance that is based on driver habits and behaviors. With a move towards user based insurance, your policy could reflect that you had avoided a car accident that year, but also that you had been driving responsibly for much longer than that.
The idea behind these programs, like Drivewise from Allstate, Drive Safe and Save from State Farm, and Snapshot from Progressive, is that the policy holder’s driving habits will be recorded through a diagnostic device installed in the car, and good driving habits will be rewarded with discounts. The Snapshot program, which is available in 43 states including Oklahoma, records the time of day and distance traveled, along with the vehicle’s speed and braking patterns. Drivers who avoid riskier tendencies like sudden braking, excessive braking, or travelling at speeds above 80 mph for extended periods, will be rewarded with a discount of up to 30 percent. Drivers who exhibit riskier behaviors will not receive a discount.
In addition to riskier driving behaviors, there are also riskier driving times that may also exclude a driver from discounts. Allstate points to the late night on weekdays and weekends as the most dangerous driving period for motorists. This means that certain shifts would exclude a driver from these discounts based solely on when he would be commuting.
There is still room for improvement in user based insurance. The diagnostic devices that most companies use are adept at tracking speed and breaking patterns, but they do not yet have a way of tracking how those habits relate to on street speed limits, stop signs and lights. It’s possible to be driving 70 mph in a 30 mph zone without the device recognizing that anything is wrong with your driving habits. The technology could still be fine tuned.
So while user based insurance may currently be a way for conscientious drivers to seek out discounts that reward their good driving, the future may see a more standard use of diagnostic devices and insurance that is truly based on the driver.