Insurance Companies May Raise Insurance Rates for Texting Drivers

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Posted on Feb 07, 2018

Man Texting While DrivingAllstate wants to use an app that will detect if you are using your phone while driving, and then hit you with higher insurance premiums. Granted, the experts agree that using your phone while at the wheel leads to more crashes, but is this app going to solve that problem?

How Will Allstate Use the New App?

The app will be able to tell if your phone is in use when the vehicle is moving and will send this data to Allstate. Allstate will then use this information to raise your insurance premiums. The app’s developer, Arity, is a division of Allstate.

How Does the App Work?

The app uses a gyroscope to determine if someone picks up or moves your phone. The app also uses an accelerometer to tell how fast your car is going. By combining these two devices, the app should be able to determine:

  • The difference between using your phone while the car is in park versus when it is in motion; and
  • Whether your phone is sitting still on a flat surface or you are holding it in your hand.

With other technology embedded in the app, it can detect whether your phone is in airplane mode or if you are using any apps when the car is moving.

The Purpose of the New App

The intent of the app is to save money for insurance companies. Allstate claims that drivers who are highly distracted cost 160 percent more to cover due to car accident claims than drivers who do not use their phones behind the wheel.

If the app cuts down on the use of cellphones while driving, it will only do so indirectly. If the knowledge that they are risking their own lives and the lives of others by texting while driving is not sufficient motivation for people to put down their phones, the possibility of higher insurance premiums is not likely to work, either. Since a potential increase in premiums is a remote consequence—meaning that even if it happens, it could be months down the road—it is unlikely to be an effective deterrent.

How Will Allstate Get Drivers to Use the App?

You can expect the insurance companies to try to lure drivers into using the app with the promise of lower premiums for drivers who do not use their cellphones while driving. Unfortunately, the app appears to have an issue that can result in drivers getting penalized when they are not using their phones when behind the wheel.

The app does not distinguish who is using the phone. Imagine a driver has her phone synced with the car’s stereo system. Her teenager likes to play music on road trips using her mom’s phone. The new Allstate app would not be able to tell if the mother or the daughter is using the phone—only that someone is operating the phone while the vehicle is in motion. That means the driver may face higher insurance premiums even though she was not using the phone.

Are There Ways to “Game” the App?

The developer of the app admits that there are several ways you might be able to avoid a penalty from the app. If you place the phone in a mounted cradle rather than hold it in your hand, the app might not detect that you are using the device. You may also be able to use navigational apps undetected if you set your destination while parked and do not touch your phone during the trip. A driver can also download the app onto one phone that he keeps in his car, but talk and text on a different phone while driving.

How Soon Might This App Affect You?

There is likely to be some pushback from consumers about the use of apps like this one because of the potential for unfair increases in the insurance premiums of innocent drivers. Several significant events must happen before Allstate can use this app.

First, before Allstate can use the app in any state, that state’s insurance office must approve. Regulatory approval processes are slow and difficult. The public commentary stage will likely attack the app’s flaws that could unfairly penalize innocent drivers or circumvent the intent of the app.

Furthermore, Allstate cannot force you to use the app. Use of the app must be voluntary and with your consent.

Reducing crashes is a worthy goal. One day, we may have the technology to accurately determine if a driver is using a cellphone while driving. When we reach that point, we will have to explore how we can use that information to make the roads safer.

Get Legal Help If You Were in a Distracted Driving Crash

If you suffered an injury in a wreck that might have involved distracted driving, please give us a call. The personal injury team at Max Meyers Law can help you prove how distracted driving caused your crash and help you recover compensation for your losses. Call us today at 425-399-7000 to get your free, no-obligation consultation.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.