Road accidents decreased by use of vehicle 'black box'


An in-car black box which uses satellite technology to check on how well a vehicle is driven is dramatically reducing figures for road accidents, according to analysis of 10,000 insurance claims.

car crash

The study shows that drivers with 'telematics' insurance, for which the black box is used, are 20% less likely to crash than those with standard insurance.

The black box identifies better driving habits by analysing speed, cornering, braking, acceleration and the time of day the car is driven.

Because the data it gathers can help insurers reduce the cost of premiums, the box is pitched at younger drivers with no track record: a demographic which usually attracts high premiums because of the volume of accidents recorded by that age group.

Insurance cover often costs a 17 to 22-year-old driver thousands of pounds. With telematics, good driving habits are rewarded with lower premiums or cashback.

In 2011 Co-operative Insurance launched its Young Driver scheme. Since then it has run the rule over 10,000 claims, the data proving that road accidents are fewer and less serious for young drivers with black boxes. According to the firm, the cost of a typical insurance claim from a customer with the box is 30% less than from a customer without.

Principal among the black box's benefits is that firms can offer individual pricing with rewards for good drivers. The box could also assist women drivers facing higher premiums.

From December, an EU ruling will prohibit firms from using gender as a basis for insurance fees. This means that women drivers, whose better claims record means their premiums are lower, will be forced to pay as much as men.

According to Amy Kilmartin, manager of the Young Driver Insurance scheme at the Co-op, this situation is unfair "as women are statistically safer drivers than men. But if they use black-box insurance, they can prove they are safe drivers and get cheaper insurance as a result".

Besides the Co-op and the AA, which started a telematics scheme in January 2012, the black box is offered by specialist companies such as Young Marmalade, Insurethebox and Autosaint, which claims its premiums are up to £1,900 cheaper for young men and £600 less for young women.

Stuart Whalley of Autosaint said the firm believes young motorists' premiums should be calculated according to how safely they drive and avoid road accidents "and not how much of a perceived risk their sex suggests they might be".

More firms should adopt the black box, said the Co-op's director of general insurance David Neave. "Telematics has a key role in cutting insurance costs and avoiding creating an uninsurable generation."

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