If your own safety and security aren’t reason enough to drive cautiously, Allstate Insurance is hoping money may entice drivers to slow down and drive less.
The insurance company is offering discounts to drivers who voluntarily install devices in their cars to record certain driving habits. Called Drive Wise, the pilot program is being unveiled in Illinois, and could expand to other states depending on how well it is received, says Christina Loznicka, spokesperson at Allstate.
Illinois drivers who enroll in the program and plug the small device into their cars get an automatic 10 percent discount on their coverage. Based on a performance rating calculated by driving habits, users are eligible for discounts of up to 30 percent. Drive Wise will not increase rates for drivers.
Allstate looks at five factors when determining the performance rating. Extreme or hard breaking or accelerations will hurt the score, as will going over 80 mph. The fewer miles you drive the better, and driving during certain times of the day can be beneficial. Driving late at night or early in the morning, for example, could have a negative impact.
Jim Fish, executive director of the National Association of Professional Allstate Agents, says on the surface Drive Wise looks like a good option for consumers, but he worries about what could happen after the initial pilot program. He says Allstate, as well as the other insurance companies offering similar programs, could begin using more controls to monitor drivers that some people may feel violate their right to privacy.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if they would eventually be able to see if people are driving while impaired,” he says.
Monitoring drunken driving or other potentially dangerous habits could be a positive step to safer roads, but some people like Fish question whether insurance companies should play the role of safety and legal expert, or if they should leave that to legislators and law enforcement officers.
Joel Ohman, a certified financial planner and the founder of the website CarInsuranceComparison.com, has similar misgivings about the program.
“One negative to behavior-based auto insurance is that as car insurance companies see success tracking what might be less intrusive minor habits, then they may be tempted to push the line further and further in the future and encroach upon ones privacy and track additional things,” says Ohman.
For example, he says, it’s not hard to envision a future where devices monitor whether someone is talking on their cell phone or texting, or whether or not both hands are on the wheel at all times.
For her part, Loznicka, the spokesperson for Allstate, says consumers should not be concerned about their privacy. She says the device does not act as a GPS to monitor where people go and will only record the five factors that determine the performance rating.
Both Fish and Ohman believe the best candidates for Drive Wise are those drivers who are responsible and conscientious and don’t mind being monitored every minute of the day.
“Because the people that are very good drivers, they are looking for lower rates and don’t mind being monitored, simply because they don’t do anything wrong, Fish says. Drivers who rack up fewer miles than the average person are also good candidates, he adds.
Other insurance companies have similar programs to Allstate’s Drive Wise, although they tend to monitor fewer driving habits. Progressive’s Snapshot is offered in 25 states and monitors how many miles a consumer drives, the time of day they drive and how often they make sudden stops. State Farm Insurance offers its customers discounts based on the number of miles driven through a program called Drive Safe & Save. The average user saves 5 percent on their premiums.
Things we hope to be able to monitor and punish:
-Forgetting to stop and pick up toilet paper on the way home-Rolling the window down to belt out Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”
-If you’re male: winking and giving the ‘head nod’ to the female in the car next to you
-If you’re female — or even male for that matter: curling your eye lashes, applying blush, plucking your eyebrows or any other grooming habits strictly meant for the bathroom
Things we hope to eventually monitor and reward:
-Dogs with their heads out the window, their face blowing in the breeze
-Babies (strapped in properly, of course) who are happily bouncing in the backseat
-Parents who do not require their kids play family car games while taking road trips
-Kind drivers who let us make that annoying left turn out of the supermarket parking lot
-Keeping an extra pair of flats in the car so you don’t have to drive in the five-inch heels