We know that tech and automotive companies are racing to create increasingly connected, autonomous cars. In fact, many of us are already driving vehicles with advanced safety and anti-theft tech features. Good for us, right? We’re making smart, safe decisions as consumers. Though while we might be safer and our cars more secure because of this technology (and let’s not underestimate that), we are certainly not reaping substantial discounts on our auto insurance premiums.
The Zebra’s new study reveals that, despite proven safety and security benefits, new in-car safety and anti-theft technology features save drivers less than 1% annually on insurance premiums.
As part of our extensive 2016 State of Auto Insurance report, we looked at nine safety features (blind spot warning, driver alertness monitoring, collision preparation systems, lane departure warning, night vision, parking assistance, rear-view cameras, heads-up displays, and electronic stability control) and four anti-theft devices (passive disabling device, active disabling device, tracking device, and audible alarm). In summary:
- Only one safety device (electronic stability control or ESC), lowered car insurance rates – though just by $5 per year. In 17 states, not one of these safety devices lowered rates.
- And though all anti-theft devices yielded some savings, the most was $11 per year on a national average annual premium (which is $1,323) – a paltry 0.83%.
Because insurance companies assess risk of drivers – and theirs cars – to determine rates, it might stand to reason that these safety and security devices are ineffective, and that’s why drivers aren’t seeing discounts for using them.
Not so, says the data.
As we see in the following chart, most of the technologies have been verified for safety and security effectiveness by sources including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the American Automobile Association (AAA), among others.
Which In-Car Safety and Anti-Theft Tech Features Lower Insurance Rates?
|Technology Feature||Function||Safety or Security Benefit||Annual savings off national average auto insurance premium|
|Anti-theft: Active disabling device||Disables the vehicle by making the fuel, ignition, or starting system inoperative and which requires a separate manual step to engage the device||Minimal research, but Michigan Automobile Theft Prevention Authority says these devices provide “Minimum level of security”||$7|
|Anti-theft: Passive disabling device||Disables the vehicle by making the fuel, ignition, or starting system inoperative and which does not require a separate manual step to engage the device||Minimal research, but Michigan Automobile Theft Prevention Authority says these devices provide “Optimal level of security”||$11|
|Anti-theft: Tracking device||Features electronic transmitters hidden in vehicle which emit signals to police or monitoring stations when the vehicle is reported stolen||Effective in recovering stolen vehicles (NHTSA)||$9|
|Anti-theft: Audible alarm||Motion or impact sensors trigger a 120-decibel siren or alarm which can be heard at a distance of at least 300 feet for a minimum of three minutes||Effective in preventing thefts, burglaries and vandalism (NHTSA)||$6|
|Safety: Electronic stability control (ESC)||Continuously monitors how well vehicle responds to driver’s steering input; selectively brakes and modulates engine power to keep vehicle on steering wheel’s path and prevent sideways skidding or rollovers||Reduces fatal single-vehicle crash risk by 49% and fatal multiple-vehicle crash risk by 20% (IIHS)
This technology is standard equipment on all new vehicles as of September 1, 2011; Has potential to prevent 72% of car rollovers and 64% of SUV rollovers that would otherwise occur in single-vehicle crashes (NHTSA)
|Safety: Blind spot warning||Provides area awareness to drivers using radar-based sensors and bouncing electromagnetic waves off nearby vehicles within a certain range to determine whether or not an alert condition exists; if it does, warning lights are illuminated||Blind spot monitoring systems effective in multiple situations, but experience delayed warnings and difficulty detecting fast-moving vehicles and motorcycles (AAA)
IIHS and HLDI haven’t been able to quantify benefits at this time
|Safety: Collision preparation system||Alerts drivers when vehicles are about to collide with another vehicle some distance ahead of theirs using flashing light, alarm sound or vibration; often intended to prevent rear-end collisions||Meets NHTSA’s performance specifications; NHTSA recommends that drivers look for this technology when shopping for a vehicle||None|
|Safety: Driver alertness monitoring||Issues and monitors visual or audible signals to and from driver to determine driver alertness and determines appropriate actions based on the response of the driver||NHTSA has been studying drowsiness in drivers for 20+ years but has not published conclusive research on any technology; Study of commercial vehicles indicates that similar driver alertness monitoring systems could aid passenger vehicle drivers||None|
|Safety: Head-up display (HUD)||Projects content into the driver’s field of view to reduce the distance a driver’s eyes need to travel between focal points on the road ahead and on an in-vehicle display, helping process front and peripheral roadway environments more quickly||Because humans have difficulty simultaneously processing two visual displays overlaid on each other, the NHTSA reports that the distraction potential of HUD must be fully investigated||None|
|Safety: Lane departure warning (LDW)||Uses cameras to monitor lane markings and alert drivers when they unintentionally drift out of their lanes without a turn signal; systems do not take full control of the vehicle or keep the driver from operating it||Meets NHTSA’s performance specifications; NHTSA recommends that drivers look for this technology when shopping for a vehicle
IIHS and HLDI haven’t been able to quantify benefits at this time
|Safety: Night vision||Heightens driver awareness and extends perception through use of LiDAR (which uses lasers to create 3D images of vehicle’s surroundings), infrared, thermographic cameras, or other technologies||NHTSA currently preparing to conduct simulator study on infrared night vision warning systems to investigate effectiveness in eliciting appropriate driver avoidance behaviors without impeding vision of other drivers||None|
|Safety: Parking assistance||Helps drivers guide their vehicles into parking spaces (often parallel parking) using a number of sensors which detect the presence of curbs, vehicles, and other stationary objects||Drivers using parking assistance experienced 81% fewer curb strikes, parallel parked using 47% fewer maneuvers, and parked 37% closer to the curb than unassisted drivers; Park assist technology recommended for people living in urban environment and/or faced with parallel parking on a regular basis (AAA)||None|
|Safety: Rear-view camera||Helps prevent backover crashes by providing image of the area behind the vehicle either in the dashboard or in a small display in the rearview mirror; Has 10-ft. by 20-ft. field of view directly behind vehicle||Meets NHTSA’s performance specifications; NHTSA recommends that drivers look for this technology when shopping for a vehicle
NHTSA requires that all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds include rear visibility technology by May 2018 to reduce the risk of fatalities and serious injuries caused by backover accidents
(See below for full downloadable chart.)
Consumers See the Value of Safety and Anti-Theft Tech In Their Cars
Tragically, we probably all know someone who was killed in a car crash. And we’re even more likely to know someone whose car was stolen – maybe it even happened to you.
- Traffic fatalities in the U.S. reached 35,092 in 2015, up 7.2% from 2014 (NHTSA).
- 707,758 motor vehicles were stolen in the U.S. in 2015, up 3.1% from 2014 (FBI).
Fortunately, automakers have been increasingly focused on making cars safer over the past decades – and on advertising safety functions as desirable to consumers.
In fact, in J.D. Power’s 2015 U.S. Tech Choice Study, 5,300 consumers weighed in on the technology they’d seek in their next vehicles, and three of the top five features were related to collision prevention. Forty percent of respondents would look for blind spot monitoring, 33 percent for night vision systems, 30 percent for collision mitigation technology, and another 30 percent for rear-view cameras.
Americans know cars are dangerous (and that they get stolen). And many would opt to take proactive measures and purchase vehicles with helpful technology to prevent crashes and theft. So shouldn’t insurance companies reward that behavior?
So Why Aren’t Insurance Companies Discounting Rates?
- There’s insufficient data about the technology. Insurance companies maintain that there is not currently enough verified data for them to determine if these new in-car technology features truly lower the risk of a crash, though it is possible that these devices could impact rates in years to come.
- Technology doesn’t necessarily negate driver error. Since these safety devices don’t make your car “driverless,” there is still a lot of room for drivers to make reckless decisions or even deactivate certain technologies because they find them “annoying,” like lane departure warning.
- Insurance companies are still taking major losses. Insurance companies are businesses, after all. They occasionally raise rates in response to external rating factors like weather, crime, or a change in population in an area. So, for example, if a region experiences a summer with several damaging hail storms and the number of claims filed skyrockets, insurance companies might raise rates (or just not offer additional discounts) for all customers in order to remain financially solvent – or they might operate at a loss, which they have largely been doing for 2016 so far.
- The potential discount depends entirely on the type of coverage a driver has. Theft falls under comprehensive coverage just like damage from hail, fire, flooding, etc., so since a car alarm does not prevent or decrease the likelihood of other comprehensive claims, the discount is minimal. Further, if you opt not to include comprehensive coverage on your policy (as it’s generally not legally required unless you’re financing a vehicle), you would not receive any insurance anti-theft discount as it would apply only to the comprehensive portion of your premium. Similarly, safety feature discounts would apply only to a specific portion of your premium; personal injury protection (PIP) or medical coverage, covers the driver’s and his/her passengers’ medical bills if hurt in a collision and is only required in 15 states, so those opting out of PIP would see no insurance premium discount for using safety tech features. So when insurance companies advertise a 10 or 20% discount for having a certain tech feature, keep in mind that that 10 or 20% only applies to part of your premium.
What Can Consumers Do?
- Make sure to inform your insurance company about any anti-theft or safety devices whenever you shop around or renew your policy as new discounts might become available (but know they’ll be able to confirm any features using your VIN).
- Look for car safety and anti-theft tech features in your next ride. Yep, just because we’re raising the question of why insurance rates might not change for having this technology doesn’t mean the tech safety features can’t save your life. It’s important to remember, however, that this technology is not human error-proof or infallible, and that small, light vehicles are not as effective at protecting drivers and passengers as large, heavy vehicles (even in crash ratings are the same). If you’re not sure if your car has crash avoidance features, check here (and then make sure to use them).
- Shop around every six months to a year to ensure that you and your vehicle are appropriately covered and to see what new discounts might apply.
- See 50 ways to save on car insurance here.
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