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TheStreet Open House

Will Insurers Soon Pay Us Not To Speed?





Would you speed if you were paid not to?

That's the thrust of a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( NHTSA) showing that motorists followed speed limits when offered financial perks.

The study, conducted by researchers from Old Dominion University in Virginia and Western Michigan University, focused on 50 people who drove cars equipped with GPS trackers designed to monitor speed. Drivers who didn't go over the limit received $25 each week.

But motorists who drove 5 to 8 mph too fast were penalized three cents each time. If they went 9 mph or more above the limit, the penalty doubled to six cents. (See: " Ticket? Uh-oh: auto insurance rate increases for common violations.")

"This had a robust effect in getting drivers to reduce their speeding," says Ian Reagan, the study's lead researcher and now a senior researcher for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( IIHS). "Egregious speeding, driving 9 or more mph over the limit, was just about eliminated for those that had the incentive" not to speed.

Another new driver safety technology being tested

The study sheds more light on intelligent speed adaptation (ISA) systems that determine if someone is speeding by using GPS to link a vehicle's position to digital maps that include local speed limits. In addition to GPS, some newer systems use cameras to read speed signs.

The ISAs, according to a recent report from the IIHS and the Highway Loss Data Institute, then could warn drivers that they're going too fast or even automatically slow the car.

Typically, ISAs notify drivers of speeding by one of the following:

  • an audible or visual alert telling the driver to slow down
  • a haptic alert via the accelerator that makes it increasingly more difficult for the driver to depress the pedal
  • reducing engine throttle to automatically decelerate a vehicle

Right now ISA technology is being tested, but is not yet in use in the U.S.

Auto insurers advised to provide incentives

Insurers should consider rewarding policyholders if they obey speed limits, which would reduce traffic accidents, deaths and injuries, and the resulting auto claims and health coverage costs, says James Bliss, an Old Dominion University professor and one of the NHTSA study's key researchers.

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