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January 13, 2017

Distracted Driving: a Job for Insurtech?

Summary:

Why not have your steering wheel do a quick test on your hands and, should alcohol be detected, apply Uber-style surge pricing?

Photo Courtesy of Pexels

The announcement of a change to the U.K. law that doubles the number of penalty points from three to six and fines from £100 to £200 for using a handheld phone while driving is a positive move to driving safety. But are we doing enough, or are are we still being too soft? Watching BBC Breakfast and seeing first-hand accounts of people who have lost loved ones to distracted drivers got me thinking that insurtech has a massive opportunity here.

One man had eight previous citations for distracted driving (yes, eight!). He is now serving a prison sentence because he couldn’t wait to send a text about taking his dog for a walk, and plowed into a cyclist at 65 mph.

How should we police this problem, with an already stretched police force and so many other competing priorities for time and funding?

See also: Of Robots, Self-Driving Cars and Insurance  

A quick quote from confused.com with just this one rating factor changed (adding a hypothetical six points to my record) meant a £128, or 36%, increase on policy cost to me, with a further 31% increase on my excess. The provider also changed in this example below.

However, a £200 fine doesn’t seem steep enough, does it? Make people feel it, make it £500 or £1,000. Maybe give people an automatic seven- or 14-day ban and make them think twice.

Perhaps we also need dedicated “pull over and use your phone here” areas along the road, to reduce temptation.

Confession: I have been guilty of checking my phone at traffic lights or when stopped. I have always had hands-free kits so have never held the phone for a conversation, but arguably even with hands free this is still distracted driving. Where is your attention when you are deep in a conversation?

My seven-year-old is my best educator. If I go to look at the phone, I get a large loud “daaaadddddyy” from the back seat.

Sadly, the driver awareness courses that are given out (instead of points) are only available if you have committed the offense. Shouldn’t education be ahead of the game? Prevention is a better cure. Let’s get it into our schools and from a very young age.

History shows we can make progress. Seat belts have become compulsory (1983 for those in the front of the car, 1991 for all passengers). Drunk driving has gone from being somewhat expected to now being taboo.

Enter insurtech.

Technology has a huge opportunity here, but there must be a stronger collaboration between motor manufacturers, device makers and policy makers.

Why not have your steering wheel do a quick test on your alcohol levels from your hands and, should alcohol be detected, apply Uber-style surge pricing? “Nigel, your price for this journey is 1.8x as your blood alcohol level is above the normal.  Please drive safely. Alternatively, an Uber can be here in six minutes if you would like a ride home.”

See also: Cars: What’s Driving Disruption and Change  

Lets not stop there. We could go one stage further and disable the car from even starting if you are over the limit. Some Ignition Interlock systems are already available to do a breath test before you can start the car.

As for distracted driving, when your mobile connects to the car, most of the functions should be disabled, unless you are stationary. You can not watch a movie or change the sat nav on many cars already for the very same reason. Waze users will be familiar with the following screen.

Distracted driving is, of course, more than just phones and apps; it’s arguably eating, drinking, smoking, crying children in the back seats, but this is today’s problem we are solving.

Like many who will read this, I am a son, brother, husband, dad and friend. I could not even fathom my life to be profoundly changed for the sake of answering an email, text or checking something else that simply could have waited.

One of the most simple campaigns over the years is the #REDTHUMBREMINDER,

What do you think? Something insurtech can and should address?

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About the Author

Nigel Walsh is a partner at Deloitte and host of the InsurTech Insider podcast. He is on a mission to make insurance lovable.

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