Don’t (Snap)Shoot Yourself in the Foot Part 2. Newsletter Readers Respond: NMA E-Newsletter #407

NMA Newsletter #404 on the devices insurance companies want you to use as part of a good driver program and vehicle black boxes (or event data recorders) brought in some great comments for discussion. We thought we would share a few thoughts from NMA members. To read the October 9th NMA E-Newsletter #404, Don’t (Snap)Shoot Yourself in the Foot. Part 1, Click Here.

From Pat in Arizona:
I won’t agree to anything like that. Too intrusive. Things like this are one reason I drive an old car. I’ve driven more than a half million miles in my lifetime, and have yet to cause an accident. If my insurance company starts this, I’ll be looking for another. I’ll stay away from that sort of requirement until there is no place left to go.

From Jim in Michigan:
Only someone who drives like an 85-year-old grandparent only to the grocery store and back would be safe with a Snapshot style device.

From Dan in Missouri:
This is an opportunity for a white hat hacker to write an ODBII code that will allow the driver to clear the data on the flash memory. There is already an app out there to clean hard drives. Originally designed to clean data off of classified hard drives so the expensive enterprise disk drives could be re used for other classified programs. It simply over writes each data block several times.

From Mike in Virginia:
As a former insurance agent I can tell you that even the best of insurance companies (some are way better than others) will sometime, eventually screw you the customer and/or “me” the agent!

It may be the fault of a salesman/agent who didn’t fully explain things, leaving you the customer with unfulfilled expectations, it could be the claims agent who was having a bad day.  It could be insurance company management that went off track. It could be their lawyers or even their investors!

From Eric in Tennessee:
Unwittingly, I have been sending my own driving data (part of it) to The Cloud, but not to my insurance company, I don’t believe.

Automatic—Your Smart Driving Assistant was advertised as a benign method to report a crash to your loved one.

“When the unthinkable happens, Automatic is watching out for you and your family. Our trained responders are ready 24/7 and will contact you, emergency services, and even your loved ones when we detect a serious accident.”

It’s an OnStar for those who don’t buy GM products. It’s a simple plugin to your car’s OBD-II port, which in turn connects to your cell phone. The app gives some feedback such as MPG, hard braking and hard accelerations. I hooked on into my wife’s VW Touareg and my ancient Accord (bicycle club car), but I did NOT put one into my Porsche (daily driver and road trip car).

This NMA newsletter made me realize that Automatic might be waiting to sell my data to my insurance company, if it hasn’t already. On the other hand, that’s perhaps a good thing because it is recording my most benign driving habits in an underpowered Honda and my wife’s cautious driving in her VW. The insurance company might think the data is representative of my overall driving.

From Tom in Arkansas:
A word on hard-braking events. When I was a fleet manager for JB Hunt, we had sensors on the front axle of our tractors that measured, among other things, hard- braking. In order for such an event to register, the truck would have to slow more than 9 MPH in one second. That event would then automatically send a report to the FM via email. We’d have to review the event with the driver.

A driver who got three of these in 30 days was required to complete interactive training, the exact program to be done determined by the event details. These events were considered internal matters, and not reported to anyone beyond our safety department, though they could be subpoenaed if there was a crash connected with the event. We mostly used them as a training tool, and for the most part, it worked. I do not know what criteria an insurance company might use to determine a hard-brake event, but that’s how we did it. I imagine it would be similar.

From David in Maryland:
So many people think technological advancements of recent years are cool…and collectively they would be in my view as well… if so much of it were not used to monitor and punish / suppress / control people. I don’t like being controlled, micromanaged, or harassed based on violations of my privacy.

I’m a truck driver and that mindset has become very pervasive in trucking…I was initiated into it years ago, but those days are now over for me. I refuse to drive with a computer in my truck and the day I am forced to do that or leave the industry, I’ll be leaving. In the meantime I keep running from computers and each time I change jobs I lose money.

When you run the formula of hours worked versus annual wages, I’m now making $9.40/hr. Fortunately in recent years, I have other income coming in.

These kinds of options are what is available to those who choose to drive for a living Today–Let them OWN you or work cheap! Neither option attracts quality people.

From Richard & Suzie in Texas:
So, where do I find out if my car has one, where it is and how to remove my data recorder?

Editor’s note: Your car manual would be the first place to start. NHTSA has recommended that vehicle owners’ manuals include a section on EDRs, explaining that the vehicle has one, what its purpose is, and who has the right to access the data without consent of the vehicle owner. More than likely very few new car manuals have EDR information.  

If you would like to explore this question further, read this information from the LIFEWIRE website which includes a link to a list of cars that have EDRs. Here is another article from 2014 from the EDMUNDS.COM website that further explains how the black box works and the expense of downloading your vehicle’s black box information that you own. Unfortunately, only about one third of all states have any statutes on the books intended to define ownership of the EDR and the information it contains.

The opinions expressed in this e-newsletter do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation.

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