Over the last few months, more and more car insurers have started offering policies which use in-car “black box” technology to assess driving skills and set premiums accordingly.
The idea behind these telematics policies is that “good” drivers should pay less for car insurance than “bad” drivers, because they are less likely to be involved in accidents and to make claims.
A hit with young drivers
Telematics or "black box" insurance policies are being targeted at young drivers in particular. This age group faces the highest premiums because under-25s are more likely to crash than other drivers.
Premiums for young motorists are therefore much higher. Telematics policies, however, give individual drivers the opportunity to show their insurers that they are more responsible and less reckless behind the wheel than many of their peers, and therefore deserve to pay less for cover.
But what makes a good – or a bad – driver, in the eyes of these telematics boxes?
What is measured?
The black boxes that are fitted in cars which have a telematics policy generally measure factors such as speed, acceleration, braking, cornering, location and time of day.
The information about each of these is transmitted back to the insurance provider, which analyses the data to work out whether the customer is driving well or not. The company can then decide whether they are entitled to a lower premium.
What makes a good driver?
For telematics policyholders, the key to lower car insurance premiums is driving in such a way that the information sent back to the insurance provider marks you out as a good driver.
Basically, that means driving sensibly. Ian Crowder at the AA says: “A good driver sticks pretty much to the speed limit, and drives according to the traffic and road conditions.”
Speed and acceleration:
Driving within the speed limit is clearly a sign of a good driver. But your speed can be judged in other ways.
Crowder says that another example of poor driving could be accelerating from traffic lights, and keeping the speed up even though you know you will have to slow or stop – perhaps by braking hard – at a queue ahead.
“Allowing the car to slow itself gives the driver better control and less risk of either running into the car in front or being struck from behind,” Crowder says.
“Good drivers accelerate smoothly, and adjust speed depending on what’s happening around the car and what the traffic is doing ahead.”
Braking and cornering:
Taking bends at too high a speed is another red mark in the eyes of insurers. Your telematics box will be able to tell if you corner too sharply, perhaps while braking hard at the same time.
Again, the answer is to drive sensibly and cautiously.
The type of road you drive on will also have some bearing on your rating, especially when used in conjunction with your speed data.
Your insurance provider will also be able to check when you have been driving on the motorway: some providers limit the amount their customers can use motorways.
Time of day:
Statistically, night is when the majority of accidents happen, says Crowder, often as a result of alcohol consumption.
So the more you drive at night, the worse you will rate according to your telematics box.
Your box will also be able to tell whether you stop for breaks frequently enough on long journeys.
The AA recommends breaking for 15 minutes every two hours.
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