Drivers Who Text And Drive May Soon Pay More For Auto Insurance

            Insurance companies are now working on a way to track driver’s cellphone use to determine automobile rates. A recent report by CNN reveals that Arity, which is a subunit of Allstate, is developing technology that will allow insurance companies to monitor a driver’s cellphone use while driving. Allstate is the third largest writer of private premiums in the United States holding approximately ten percent of the market share.

How The Technology Works

            From what I’ve gathered, it appears that there is an App drivers can download that is able to track how a phone is being used while driving. The technology is described to use the smartphone’s accelerometer and gyroscope to sense whether the device is moving – i.e., in the driver’s hand – or whether the device is lying flat on a surface. It can also tell whether the phone is being unlocked and apps are being opened, signaling that the phone is in use.

            It does appear that there are ways to minimize the likelihood that the App will think you are distracted, or that your phone is actually in use. Arity recommends that drivers put their phone in airplane mode while driving. It was also stated that the software is not likely to identify a driver as distracted if the phone is mounted in a cradle and not moving.

What The Research Shows

            Allstate used research conducted by Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT), which is known as the leading smart phone-centric telemetric provider, to document distracted driving. In the course of their research, they compiled data from several hundreds of thousand of drivers. The results of the study concluded:

  • Distracted driving occurred during fifty-two percent of all trips that resulted in a car accident;
  • For drivers that involved a car wreck, the average duration of distraction was 135 seconds;
  • Phone distractions lasts for two minutes or more for twenty percent of distracted drivers and often occurs at high speeds, twenty-nine percent of speeds that exceeded fifty-six miles per hour;
  • The worst ten percent of distracted drivers were 2.3 times more likely to be in a car accident than the average driver, and 5.8 times more likely than the best ten percent of distracted drivers

The Reason For The Technology

            According to the National Safety Counsel (NSC), the number of traffic fatalities in the United States has increased by fifteen percent since 2015. This is documented to be the largest in a two-year increase in the past five decades. Despite the fact that thirty-seven states, including South Carolina, now have laws banning cell phone use while driving, these statistics are supporting the fact that anti-phone laws are only marginally effective in decreasing distracted driving. Phone use while driving has shown to increase significantly in recent years, especially among teen drivers. The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety has reported that eleven teens die every day as a result of texting while driving. Research has also proven that states with no laws against distracted driving have only a marginal effect on drivers actual cell phone use.

            Due to the increase in distracted driving, which has resulted in the overall increase in the number of traffic accidents, automobile insurance companies have experienced record losses in recent years. Allstate has noted that distracted drivers cost insurance companies 160% more than the least distracted drivers. This has motivated insurance companies to take action and find a way to either punish or reward distracted drivers. Ironically, the source of the problem may also be the solution – your smart phone itself.

Is This Realistic?

            Arity’s CEO, Gary Hallgreen, believes that car insurers will commonly use smartphone date in the coming years. In fact, he goes so far as to say that insurance companies who don’t use this type of technology likely lose their best drivers to other companies who are able to offer a discount for least distracted drivers. However, before this becomes a reality, Arity will need regulatory approval from state insurance offices. Also, car insurance companies such as Allstate won't be able to use the technology without drivers agreeing to it. Simply put, it will likely be up to the driver to download the App and use it at her own choosing.

            As a personal injury lawyer who readily handles auto accident claims, I can tell you that distracted driving is a very real and common problem on South Carolina roadways. It has been practically a routine practice for me to subpoena the at-fault driver’s cellphone records during any auto accident claim I handle due to the high probability that distracted driving may have played a vital role in the accident.

            While I find it ironic that insurance companies are pitching this technology as a way to reduce distracted driving, I do think that this could be a by-product of such technology. Knowing how insurance companies work, I know that this technology is a way to punish distracted drivers with higher auto rates, which will allow insurance companies to collect higher premiums and maximize profits. Since the technology is only used when a driver chooses to actually download the App and use it, I don’t believe those drivers who are actually prone to distracted driving would choose to do so. It will be interesting to see how insurance companies choose to use this technology to either punish distracted drivers or reward those who actually choose to use the technology.

            If you have absolutely any questions about choosing the proper automobile insurance or questions about your rates, please feel free to contact the Law Office of Jared C. Williams, LLC at (843) 991-6528 and speak with our accident lawyers about your rates. 

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