I am always staggered, when I speak to young drivers at the side of the road, about how much the under 21′s currently have to fork out to get their cars insured these days. Quite commonly I see premiums of several thousand pounds for a small, low powered and almost worthless car. Only this week I spoke to a 19 year-old guy who was driving a £250 Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 and was, for the privilege, paying nearly £4,000 per year for his policy. I remember when I learnt to drive in the late 80′s that my father was gutted at having to pay less than 15% of that for me to have fully comprehensive cover on our family car…in fact I don’t think I ever had to pay more than £600 for comprehensive cover, even when I started driving my own cars about the streets.
I have heard, many times, the uninsured claim prohibitive costs as the main reason for taking to the roads with no cover. Let’s face it, even if you get caught it’s going to cost you less than 10% of the average policy price to fork out for recovery and storage as well as the big fat No Insurance ticket. Even if convicted at court a few times in a five year period, I would estimate that the total financial penalty would be no where near 50% of the cost of driving legally. This is an issue that is more to do with sentencing than the cost of the policies involved – while the offences go virtually unpunished, there is little incentive to do things right other than personal responsibility and a law-abiding nature.
Over the last few months however I have spoken to a few young drivers who have managed to chop a HUGE chunk off their insurance costs by having ‘black box’ technology installed in their cars by one of the small numbers of insurers that now offer the service. The theory is beautifully simple…
- Have the kit fixed into your car
- Drive your pride and joy carefully in the knowledge that your speed, acceleration, cornering and many other parameters are being watched by the electronic gismos under your dashboard
- Modify your driving where necessary to keep things in the ‘safe zone’ – assisted by online software that shows you the good and bad aspects of the data you are producing
- Resist the urge to show off to your mates just this once as you know that it will be very expensive
- Avoid the catastrophic aftermath of said showing off by surviving the policy term and hopefully getting to renewal with your car in the same condition as it was when you started
- Pay a fraction of the price for the year’s cover and potentially an even lower price at renewal
In addition to this, if the worst does happen and you have a bump, the in-car kit can prove your innocence (or guilt) to those that would otherwise potentially judge you on your age and choice of car rather than the facts of the incident. Other technologies are also becoming an integral part of these systems. Navigation specialists TomTom have introduced software that will link their consumer products to ‘black box’ equipment and potentially improve the breadth of data available. No doubt in a few years we will be watching each other driving around on the latest Facebook or iPhone app, watching a live feed from the dash cam behind the mirror, and potentially find our driving to be subject to far more public scrutiny that we can comprehend at present.
We, in the Police, have had such systems in place in our vehicles for several years. Despite the initial suspicion that the mass of wires and blinking lights was simply a way of providing our disciplinary boards with a steady stream of customers, I will say that those on my division have been kept out of the brown stuff using the data it provides on many more occasions than have shown an officer to be at fault. I am the first to admit that it is always in the back of my mind that the old days where a good story might keep you out of trouble are gone and if I get it wrong, there will inevitably be a hoard of driving standards ‘experts’ pouring over a virtual record of my actions, taking weeks to analyse decisions that I have made in a split second. Those that say it has never been a factor in the way they drive a Police vehicle are either lying or…..well…..lying!
Unfortunately, these systems are, and will remain for many years I suspect, installed on a voluntary basis. I would argue that there is a legitimate case for compulsory fitment of these systems to those convicted of certain motoring offences as an electronic tag is used for monitoring those committed of a criminal offence. I would also argue that if these systems became mandatory, then they would result in a tangible drop in the number of speed vs ability accidents that we see on our roads. They wouldn’t fix things in all cases of course. There are always going to be those that have the inclination, lack of conscience, or financial ability to buy fast cars and drive them like missiles, but that is unfortunately something that will never change.
There is today, however, one less of these people in the world following a spectacular illustration of how not to drive a high performance car. I don’t expect that the driver of the Ferrari from this accident in Singapore would have been worried about his premium being pushed up by his driving style….unfortunately several others also paid the price for his lack of consideration. Viewer discretion is advised…it’s not very graphic, but still quite shocking!