You know the safe driving device you installed to get a lower insurance rate? What it does is keep track of your driving style — whether you tend to speed, take corners too sharply or brake too hard, for example.
Your insurance company uses the data, called “telematics,” to determine how risky a driver you are. The safer the driving you exhibit on a day-to-day basis, the lower your rate.
Many insurers offer telematics programs, and that has provided a huge cache of real-world data that researchers can use to analyze driving risk. Statisticians and engineers from the University of Waterloo in Ontario recently gathered that data from insurance companies in Ontario and Texas. Ultimately, they pored over data from 28 million everyday trips.
The researchers identified 28 crashes and compared them with 20 control vehicles that weren’t in crashes but were located in similar geographic locations and which had driven the same overall distance. They then set up a sophisticated penalty system for four kinds of aggressive driving:
- Hard braking
- Hard acceleration
- Hard cornering
The idea was to see whether it was possible to predict the likelihood of an accident based on the driver’s prior behavior.
The result? Speeding was the most dangerous. It was a statistically significant indicator of a future crash. There was no statistically significant link with the other individual aggressive driving behaviors, although aggressive driving itself was significant.
“Some of the results are no surprise, but prior to this we had a whole industry based on intuition,” said one researcher. “Now it is formulated — we know aggressive driving has an impact.”
Telematics data could revolutionize the insurance industry
The study, which appears in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, has some limitations. One, for example, is that it focused on cars, not people. There was no way to be sure the same person was doing all the driving in any particular vehicle. The study’s authors say more research is needed to verify what they found.
However, there was a lot of excitement over the potential for telematics data to help people understand their risky driving and give them financial incentives, through insurance, to reduce their risk.
One reason your auto insurance rates are so high may be that your insurance company is still gauging your driving risk based on factors like your age, gender and location. Telematics data could help insurers calculate a driver’s risk based on evidence of their past behavior.
Now that you know speeding is a strong indicator of a crash in your future, will you slow down?