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Checking Facebook While You Drive? Better Check Your Insurance Rates.

Your smartphone contains all kinds of juicy data – from where you eat to what your hobbies are to what your plans are next week and who you talk to most. iphone6

Now, your insurance companies want to be able to access your information to determine how well you drive. More specifically, they want to find out if you’re a distracted driver because, if you are, that puts them at risk for having to dole out more cash if you’re in a crash. They also want to know how long your daily commute to work is and whether you have a tendency to speed – both also things that up their risk and which are accessible by tapping into your phone. And they would love to know if you chat on the phone while changing lanes.

Auto insurance companies in Massachusetts and across the country have been introducing mobile phone applications that can help keep an eye on insured’s behind-the-wheel habits.

The Boston Globe reports these applications – which are currently voluntary – have been given the green light in 30 states, including not just Massachusetts, but Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Technology and insurance firms don’t look at it as a way to penalize bad drivers. Instead, they are promoting them as a way to reward good drivers – with as much as a 10 percent discount on their insurance bill.

At the same time, the information these companies are collecting are used to track how often they are texting, checking social media or talking on the phone while they are driving.

The Insurance Information Institute referred to these as each smartphone user’s “digital footprint.” The hope, advocates explain, is that drivers will install it in the hopes of lower insurance rates and then forget about it. From there, the auto insurance company would be routinely assessing each driver’s risk.

Our Boston auto accident lawyers know this is not the first time insurance companies have tried to do this, actually. Several years ago, insurers started marketing a device that one could plug in to the vehicle’s diagnostic center. It would then track things like travel distance, braking patterns and speed. However, they were pricey. They were also kind of clunky and consumers had a hard time installing them. No wonder they never really took off.

The smartphone apps are essentially the same concept, but insurers are hoping to appeal more to younger drivers – who in particular have an atrociously high level of driver distraction.

Some say this is the wave of the future and soon, car insurance rates are going to be based on how we drive rather than how old we are, where we live or what kind of car we have. That kind of system could potentially be more egalitarian than the one we have now, but regulators – including those in Massachusetts – do have concerns. The Massachusetts Division of Insurance reports it is in the beginning stages of ironing out policies for the apps.

Some drivers say the systems are beneficial. For example, one driver who just moved from Indiana to Boston downloaded an app when he heard his insurance was going to spike due to relocating. So far, it’s saved him about $300 over the course of six months. And, he said, it’s made him a more careful driver.

If you are injured in an accident in Massachusetts, call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

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

More Blog Entries:

A Look at the Use of “Ghost Bikes,” June 11, 2016, Boston Distracted Driving Accident Lawyer Blog