Katie Small, board director at insurance broker R K Harrison on how telematics can encourage safer driving
My children are still years away from getting behind the wheel, but even so I couldn’t make it to the end to find out if either Tommy or Chantelle got money for a car. A few days later I was thinking about it at work. We hear so much talk about how the insurance industry, when it’s got time left over from wriggling out of paying claims and eating kittens, is gleefully charging sky-high rates for young drivers. When you see examples like this, it surely only takes a basic understanding of the fact that insurance prices are based on how risky something is, for people to understand why.
I do not for one minute think that all young drivers behave like the ones I saw on BBC3, but there is plenty of chilling evidence for the fact that their safety record is poor. Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin recently wrote that, “It is alarming that a fifth of people killed or seriously injured on our roads in 2011 were involved in a collision where at least one driver was aged 17 to 24.”Sadly, there are many more statistics with the same message as this one.
Fortunately, people are waking up to the fact that the high premiums are a symptom of this deeper problem, and are looking for ways to address this. That quote from the Transport secretary was from an announcement that there will be a green paper looking at how young driver safety could be improved. The list of the proposals that are being considered can be viewed here, with a focus on better preparing the learner driver by a longer period of teaching in more varied circumstances, for example on motorways, and an increased probation period.
The insurance industry, like everyone else, has an important role to play in this process. We only have certain tools at our disposal, so we need to think carefully about how we deploy these to best effect. One thing R K Harrison does in its young driver product is make an advanced driving course, provided by the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists), mandatory. Having taken a similar course myself, I know the benefits, and so I think more training and teaching on how to cope with complicated driving environments is important. But even then, it’s a different beast when you’re out on the road on your own for the first time.
That’s where telematics monitoring can also really help. There are lots of ways these little black boxes can be used, for example some companies use it to impose fines for bad driving. We try to encourage safer driving by sharing their driving data with the people the young drivers are most worried about: their parents. Parental sanctions, tears or humiliations have a powerful hold over young people. I’m fairly sure, for example, that neither of the Obama girls ever get tattoos after their father (31 million followers on twitter) has said that if they do he will get an identical one in an identical place and show it off to everyone.
Most teenagers and young adults (the ones on Barely Legal Drivers can be discounted here, though it should be noted they didn’t think their driving was under scrutiny) only misbehave when they think there are going to be consequences. Of course there is one very big potential consequence, an accident, but fortunately this won’t happen to everyone and the younger you are, the more you think these things won’t happen to you. By sending data on their driving to their parents each month, it meant that there will certainly be consequences of bad driving, and they will hopefully be encouraged to return a good driving report each month.
It’s all of our responsibilities to do our best to provide a framework for our young people do be as safe as they can. The Department of Transport green paper is a recognition that more efforts need to be made that are currently, and the insurance industry plays a vital role in that.
Recently BBC3 has been running a show called Barely Legal Drivers. It should come with a parental guidance warning – not the usual sort that lets you decide whether the programme is suitable for your children, but one that warns parents that it’s going to give them nightmares.
Katie Small, Head of Private Wealth for R K Harrison Insurance Services
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