Facebook While You Drive? Better Make Sure You Can Afford the Insurance Bill.

It used to be that a phone was just a phone. A way to call one person and speak from long distances. phone

Today, phones have become so much more. They are our maps. Our social calendars. Our means to connect with current contacts and decades-old pals. Our music. Our clock. Our books. Our calculator. Our news source. And so much more.

We aren’t the only ones who have taken note. Because for all the good things that having this technology at our fingertips does, it can be deadly in the hands of a driver. Far too often, distraction turns deadly. In an effort to curb the risk of car accidents caused by mobile phone distraction, auto insurance companies are increasingly giving drivers an option: Download our use tracking app, and get a break on your insurance rates. 

Some drivers who use it say it makes them better drivers because it forces them think before picking up the phone while the vehicle is in motion.

These apps track whether you are Snapchatting behind the wheel, talking while changing lanes or speeding during your long commute. In some cases, that longer commute could count against you too, as the more you drive on a daily basis the higher your chances of being involved in an auto accident.

The technology works by using sensors that already exist in many smartphones, which measure how fast a person is going, which direction they are traveling, whether there is a sudden stop and where they are. Mobile phone applications that track driver habits can tell the insurance company how well you’re driving. The insurer hopes you will download it and then forget it.

Still, there are many questions raised by officials about how insurance companies are using this information and who all can have access to it. As the president of the Insurance Information Institute told The Boston Globe, auto insurance companies are tapping into their customers’ digital footprint. Insurers believe that when they can assess the insurance risk on a regular basis, it’s probably more accurate.

The idea isn’t new, but older versions never realy caught on. For example, Progressive introduced a feature called “Snapshot” years ago that could be used to track the driver’s travel distance, speed and braking. But they were pricey and consumers found them bulky and tough to install.

Insurers are investing in the newer technology for a number of reasons. One is that almost everyone has a phone already, so it’s widely accessible. Secondly, it will be less expensive and difficult to install. And finally, they hope that the fact that it’s on their phones will encourage younger drivers – i.e., those statistically most likely to run into problems with distracted driving – to use it.

However, some state insurance regulators have questions they want to be answered before the market gets flooded. Namely, they want to know about how the companies intend to handle privacy, how truly accurate the data is and how available it will be to all or most users (i.e., will those who are already struggling financially be at a disadvantage).

Insurers say there is currently no penalty when the companies detect poor driving, but consumer advocates say that is probably the next likely move.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

Checking Facebook while you drive? That could be a hit on your insurance. June 9, 2016, By Derdre Fernandes, The Boston Globe

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Estate of Summers v. Nisbet – Deadly Fire and Prioritizing Victim Claims, June 22, 2016, Car Accident Attorney Blog