Think your car insurance company's rules are unfair? Perhaps you
should make up your own.
That was the task before 1,000 drivers in a new survey
commissioned by CarInsurance.com. Motorists were asked how they
would screen customers and price car insurance policies if they ran
an insurance company.
Most said they wouldn't penalize drivers for factors that aren't
directly related to operating a car.
But they would hold drivers much more accountable when moving --
ramping up punishments for those who break the rules and
aggressively monitoring those who pose the highest risks.
Put down the cellphone
The survey came down hardest on those who use a cellphone to
text or talk while driving:
- 72.9 percent said a driver who texts should pay more for car
insurance than one who speeds.
- 52.9 percent said a cellphone ticket should bring an
- 51.6 percent would offer a discount to drivers willing to
install a cellphone-disabling device.
Is this happening now?
No. Currently only a dozen states (Alabama, Colorado, Maryland,
Nebraska, New York, New Jersey, North Dakota, Nevada, Vermont,
Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin) plus Washington, D.C., treat
texting as a moving violation -- one capable of increasing
insurance rates. Other states are considering that step. No insurer
offers a discount for a cellphone disabling device, but
Esurance will give its customers a free app
that blocks cell use while a car is moving.
Smile -- you're on an insurance camera
Imagine a device that tracks where a car goes, how fast, and
when. Imagine it can observe the behavior of all the people in the
car as well. Given the ability to see inside a car, we asked
respondents which distractions should result in a higher insurance
- 16.2 percent: A screaming child
- 16.4 percent: Hogging the left lane
- 26.4 percent: Playing very loud heavy metal music
- 39.7 percent: Eating a sandwich
- 47.4 percent: Holding a dog on your lap
- 75.7 percent: Holding a cellphone to your ear.
Teenagers would be under much more scrutiny; 62.9 percent of
respondents would require inexperienced drivers to install that
monitoring device. Opinion was even firmer regarding drunk drivers:
81.3 percent would make a monitor a requirement before issuing a
policy to someone with a DUI conviction.
Assuming that the monitoring device could detect turn-signal
use, 74.5 percent would charge a driver higher rates if signals
were not used when required.
Assuming that the monitoring device could detect the hours a car
was being driven, 44.6 percent of respondents chose midnight to 6
a.m. as posing the highest risk; 30.5 percent chose evening rush
hours of 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., and 24.9 percent chose morning commute
hours of 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Is this happening now?
, known as telematics, use devices that can track speed, total
miles driven, hard braking and hours of operation. None of them
calculates insurance rates based on turn-signal use, but some do
penalize drivers who are on the road in the wee hours.
All states require installation of an
ignition interlock device
after a DUI conviction in some circumstances. The devices do
nothing except prevent a car from starting if alcohol is detected
on the driver's breath.
No state requires a
, and no insurance company will give you a discount for installing
one. But American Family Insurance offers one to parents who want
to observe and help their teens.
It's how you drive that matters
A majority of drivers surveyed rejected current rate-setting
practices that did not directly relate to actions behind the
Car insurance quotes typically begin with a base rate partly
determined by ZIP code. But only 11.6 percent of respondents in the
survey said drivers who live in a neighborhood with more claims
should pay more than those who live in an area that makes fewer
Credit history can be a rating factor in all but three states,
California, Hawaii and Massachusetts. Just 38.5 percent of
respondents said they would include credit in their price
A lapse in coverage can deal a major blow to insurance rates.
40.5 percent of those surveyed said they would not consider a gap
in coverage in calculating a driver's rates.
Is this happening now?
No. Unless specifically prohibited by law, almost all major
insurance companies use ZIP code, credit and insurance history in
calculating insurance rates because they are seen as accurate
predictors of risk.
About the survey
CarInsurance.com commissioned a survey of 1,000 drivers -- half
male, half female -- on their opinions about how car insurance can
be priced. Respondents answered 14 multiple-choice questions. The
survey was performed in March 2013.