How Bad Driving Affects Insurance Policies

Slow Down And Buckle-Up!

Car insurance is coverage meant for structural damage to cars and occupants. A consumer would be hard pressed to find a policy that pays for parking and traffic tickets or replacements and repairs on parts ahead of schedule. If insuring one’s self, an individual will always have to disclose a driving record. But, if a company won’t pay for a speeding ticket, and an individual has not been in any accidents, why should past speeding tickets raise premiums?

Insurance companies weigh several factors when determining premiums. The cost of benefits chosen by the consumer and the likelihood of that consumer needing such benefits are the primary concerns, with the latter being determined by age, sex, and known driving habits. Insurance companies will not treat policy holders as individuals. Over a state or nation, it is far more reliable to look at statistics to determine an individual’s risk. Age and sex are difficult, at best, for an individual to alter. Driving habits are the one aspect of premium cost drivers can control most, and they should be noted carefully.

Speed limits and traffic laws are set for safety concerns. An interstate highway might seem comfortable at fifteen or twenty miles an hour over the speed limit, but the number posted is safest under near-ideal driving conditions with many cars on the road. Driving any faster is the same as stating that safety does not matter. Insurance companies take this rule very seriously, as a high percentage of the total number of accidents each year involve at least one speeding car. In 2005, 30% of the state of Washington’s traffic fatalities involved at least one speeding car. An insurer will never ask an individual how well they drive when speeding: it is an increased risk, and it is treated as such by raised premiums.

Other negligent driving behaviors can increase premiums. Being cited without a seat belt is a signal to insurance companies that a driver is more likely to suffer bodily trauma. Distracted driving and reckless driving are signals that a driver does not pay attention to the road or to safety signs, increasing the likelihood of a crash. Every trait that increases a driver’s likelihood of a crash or need for benefits will raise premiums, as an insurance company will try to guarantee as much paid in as possible by the time benefits are required.

Beyond activities behind the wheel, there are other concerns for determining driving habits. Many cars can go significantly further than the recommended 3000 miles between oil changes. Similarly, tire maintenance and fluid flushes are recommended more often than required. This is because keeping up on little maintenance keeps a car running more reliably. When accelerating onto a highway, the engine must be functioning at peak performance, so the driver doesn’t merge at half the speed of others. Good tire traction and alignment protects against sharp turns and high winds. Brake, steering and transmission fluid keep all systems running reliably. All of this is elementary driving knowledge, but many put off this maintenance due to cost or hassle of getting it done. A car’s safety record, including total mileage, will be taken into account when it is insured. A car that has been maintained well is safer, and it will require fewer benefits paid towards it.

Age and sex play a part in insurance premiums, as many teenage males can attest. The largest factor in car insurance premiums, however, is something controlled by each driver individually. Safe driving habits will not only keep a driver safe, they will show others, like insurance companies, that he or she intends to keep safe and will need fewer benefits paid over the course of a policy.

Photo via thienzieyung

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