Don’t (Snap)Shoot Yourself in the Foot: NMA E-Newsletter #404

from Gary Biller, NMA President

Let’s take a little quiz, one that I’ve given to a few audiences during NMA presentations.

First question: Do you feel that you are a better-than-average driver?

Second question: Would you consider enrolling in a program like Progressive’s Snapshot in which the insurance company offers a discounted premium for better drivers who agree to install a transponder in their vehicles to monitor actual driving habits?

Third question: Do you believe that the insurance company would not use that uploaded information of your driving habits to deny an accident claim if at the time of the incident you were traveling a few mph over the limit, didn’t brake in a timely fashion, or otherwise didn’t drive “appropriately?”

If you are like those audiences, almost all hands go up after Question #1.  About two-thirds stay up after Question #2.  Question #3 is simply followed by quite a bit of murmuring.

Progressive isn’t alone among insurance companies offering Snapshot-type programs to its customers, but it is certainly a master of marketing.  To wit:

“This little device turns your safe driving into savings.”

“Snapshot fits into your car’s OBD-II port. (Most modern cars have one.) Every time you power up, Snapshot follows suit—you’ll see the lights dance and hear a beep.”  (Cool)

“For each trip you take, Snapshot notes information like the time of day and how you drive, including any hard brakes. (A hard brake is a rapid deceleration—enough to make your car jerk. You’ll hear a beep, too.)”  (Danger, Will Robinson, danger!)

At least with event data recorders, the black boxes that are integral to the operating system of pretty much every vehicle on the road now, the information gathered isn’t sent on a direct pipeline to your insurance company.  Typically it takes a court order to allow extraction of the data by anyone other than the car owner.  Or does it?

A little while ago, a member reported taking an unusual step after being in an accident that totaled his car.  His insurance company contested his claim.  He happened to still have an active used car dealer license and used it to buy his own wreckage at auction, regaining control of his black box just ahead of agents for – you guessed it – the insurance company.

Another member notes that, if ever involved in an accident, he will remove the event data recorder from his vehicle before some factory representative or insurance company investigator can pirate the data.  Is he paranoid?  No, just informed by the experience of working several years as a licensed insurance adjuster.

The moral of the story is that if information is stored, it can be gotten by others.  Just don’t make it so easy for your insurance company that you are handing over your driving profile willingly.

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