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How does black box insurance encourage safer driving?

Feb 12, 2021

Have you ever noticed how cars behave differently when a police car is around? On the motorway, vehicles slow down and watch their lane manoeuvres, while on quieter roads drivers become just a bit more careful. Knowing there could be a direct consequence to sloppy driving makes drivers more alert.

Black box insurance makes use of this effect. Having a telematic device that records data about your driving gives an added incentive to drive carefully. When you know that taking corners too quickly or accelerating too fast could bump up your insurance premium, it’s an extra nudge to take care on the road.

Let’s look at how black box insurance works, and how it can encourage you to be a safer driver.

What is black box insurance?

Insurers use statistical data to calculate insurance premiums. They ask you about your personal characteristics such as your age, how long you have been driving and where you live in order to build a picture of your risk profile. Your insurance premiums are priced according to how the average person with your characteristics behaves.

Instead of working with averages and statistics in this way, black box insurance gathers data to reveal your real-life risk level. A device is fitted in your car that measures key elements of your driving. You won’t pay more just because other people with your characteristics take risk – if you’re a careful driver, your insurance costs may be reduced.

Your insurance premiums are priced according to how the average person with your characteristics behaves.

A young driver flipping the indicator stalk on their car as they drive
How does black box insurance encourage careful driving?

Smooth driving is the hallmark of a skilled, responsible car owner. There will always be times when you have to brake sharply, swerve or accelerate rapidly for a good reason, but for the most part this kind of driving goes hand-in-hand with a risk-taking attitude, carelessness or a lack of skill. If you look ahead and read the road well, you can anticipate what actions you might need to take as a driver and do them in good time, avoiding sudden reactions.

Insurers know that car insurance can be pretty expensive, especially for young or inexperienced drivers. It’s not fair for all drivers to face steep premiums because of a few irresponsible people. That’s why telematics insurance was created. The black box is a small gadget which is fitted to your car. It records data such as how you steer, accelerate, brake and whether you drive a lot at night.

Careful driving is the right thing to do in many ways – for a start, bad driving could harm someone else, get you in trouble with the police and cause you extra expense through damage to your vehicle. Telematics insurance adds another reason to be cautious on the roads, as erratic driving may bump up your insurance cost.

What are the most dangerous driving habits?

We are all on our best behaviour during the driving test, but bad habits can start to form once drivers get their licence. Dangerous driving can be the result of a driver being distracted or careless, rather than deliberately doing something dangerous. If you are convicted of dangerous driving, the maximum penalties include a driving ban, an unlimited fine and a prison sentence of up to two years.

The most obvious dangerous driving behaviour might include things like speeding, racing or driving aggressively, for example tailgating another driver or stopping abruptly in front of another car. Ignoring road signs and traffic lights is another very bad habit – for example, jumping red lights or not slowing down at give way signs. Driving under the influence of drink or drugs is another sign of a reckless driver.

Other dangers are less deliberate. Distractions such as using a mobile phone, reading a map or sat nav, smoking, eating and drinking or fiddling with the stereo can also lead to avoidable collisions. Driving with an injury might mean you’re not fully in control of the vehicle. Also, driving a car where the windscreen is obstructed in some way – maybe because of mud or snow – is also dangerous as it blocks your view of the road and any hazards ahead.

Many accidents occur due to poor car maintenance. For instance, worn brake pads and tyres can reduce the ability to stop in good time, increasingly the likelihood of a collision. Driving with an unsafe load is also a common danger if the load means your vehicle handles differently, blocks your line of vision or causes a hazard for other road users. 

Distractions such as using a mobile phone, reading a map or sat nav, smoking, eating and drinking or fiddling with the stereo can also lead to avoidable collisions.

A man driving whilst holding his mobile phone up to his ear
The facts about road deaths and injuries in the UK

In 2019, there were 1,752 road deaths and 25,945 serious injuries caused by road accidents on UK roads. A total of 153,158 reported having an injury of any severity caused by a road collision. The good news is that road deaths are on a long-term downward trend; in 1979 more than three times as many people (6,352) died on our roads each year and the death rate is down 21% since 2009.

Car occupants account for 42% of all road deaths, followed by pedestrians (27%), motorcyclists (19%) and cyclists (6%). However, as pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists are on the road in smaller numbers than car occupants they are still vulnerable road users. Road fatalities are not spread evenly across all age groups. Car occupants aged 17-24 have a high fatality rate (this includes drivers and passengers). In 2019, 248 people aged 17-24 died in road traffic accidents.

The higher rate of death and injury among young people is one of the reasons why insurance companies charge more to insure young drivers – unfortunately, statistically the insurer is more likely to have to pay out. If you are a young driver and feel confident about your driving ability, black box insurance could be right for you.

What can young drivers do to stay safe on the roads?

Every driver was a learner once. Even after you have passed your driving test, it takes time to build up the skill and experience to make you a truly confident driver. This is why young and newly-qualified drivers are at higher risk of accidents than older drivers. This might be down to lack of experience or a risk-taking attitude. Young men are particularly likely to display reckless behaviour in the first few years of driving.

Enrolling in a course is one way to top up your driving skills once you have your licence. You might choose to take the Pass Plus course in the first year after passing your driving test. Pass Plus involves six hours of tuition and covers advanced skills to help with driving in town, in rural areas, in all weathers, at night and on dual carriageways and motorways. Local councils sometimes offer a discount, while some insurers may also often reduce premiums if you have taken the course, so it could pay for itself.

Even after you have passed your driving test, it takes time to build up the skill and experience to make you a truly confident driver.

A young woman driving on a sunny day
If your work requires you to drive

Jobs that require you to drive, such as being a delivery driver, taxi driver or a tradesperson who uses a van, often result in higher car insurance premiums. This is because those roles carry a higher risk of you being involved in a road traffic collision. The cost will be even higher if you are a young driver.

If you fall into this category, might want to consider an advanced driving course such as the RoSPA Level 2 Award in Defensive Driver Development, or one of the courses run by IAM RoadSmart such as Advanced Rider, Advanced Driver or Young Driver Assessment.

These courses may help deliver lower insurance premiums for you (or your boss) as well as keeping you safe on the road for years to come. Even a small claim on your insurance as a young driver can bump up premiums for years – it’s well worth taking the time to become the best driver you can be.

Why safe driving is also green driving

We all need to find ways to reduce our impact on the environment. Driving a petrol or diesel car will result in carbon emissions, but if you learn how to drive in the most fuel-efficient way then your impact will be reduced and you will save money, too.

Fuel-efficient driving is about guiding your car smoothly and anticipating actions you will need to take well in advance, so you can carry them out gently rather than abruptly. For example, avoiding heavy braking or acceleration helps you to conserve fuel, as well as avoiding stop-go idling in traffic. With modern cars, it’s better to turn off your engine if you are going to be stationary for a minute or two.

Smart, fuel-efficient driving is also about avoiding excess weight in your car. Don’t carry things around in your boot unless you need them, and remove your roof rack when not in use – the air resistance created by a roof rack means you use more fuel.

Fuel efficiency is not only about what you do when you’re behind the wheel. Your vehicle is more fuel efficient when it is in good condition, so make sure you have it serviced regularly and check for things like low tyre pressure that put a strain on the engine. It’s also wise to plan your route carefully before you set off, especially for long journeys or trips on the motorway – avoiding roadworks and congestion is more enjoyable and saves you burning fuel while adding to a traffic jam.

Of course, if you want to cut your carbon emissions even further you may wish to buy an electric or hybrid vehicle rather than a petrol or diesel car. These are often more expensive to buy but there are government subsidies that help and you can also recoup some of the cost through reduced fuel bills over the lifetime of the car.

Many of the elements that a black box monitors such as speed, braking and acceleration are also factors that influence fuel economy. So if you drive to please the black box, you might be cutting your car insurance premiums and helping the planet at the same time.

Fuel-efficient driving is about guiding your car smoothly and anticipating actions you will need to take well in advance, so you can carry them out gently rather than abruptly.

The exhaust tips from a car
How do you get started with black box insurance?

Black box insurance from Smartdriverclub is easy to use. Simply take out a policy with us and we’ll send you a Smartplug device that fits discreetly into your car. Don’t worry, it’s a small gadget so you’ll barely notice it is there. The Smartplug must remain fitted throughout the policy term.

The Smartplug is a telematic device, meaning it gathers data as you drive around. The device monitors things like your speed, acceleration, steering and braking. It also picks up on how often you drive at night. Driving between 11pm and 5am regularly may indicate that you are a riskier driver.

You can check out your own driving performance using the smartphone app that accompanies Smartplug. Getting to grips with your own data can help show you where you might want to brush up on your skills or take more care.

At the end of the policy term, you will be given an insurance quote with a reduction based on how carefully you drove. What’s more, the encouragement to drive carefully may have saved wear and tear on your car and reduced the risk of collision in the meantime, saving you even more money and inconvenience.

Other benefits of black box insurance

The black box records the geolocation of your vehicle in order to track your driving. However, this feature can also bring other benefits, for example you can use the Smartplug if your car is stolen. Smartdriverclub will help track and retrieve your car if it is taken by thieves because the device will reveal the location of the vehicle to the police.

The Smartplug is also a great safety feature if you’re unlucky enough to be involved in a breakdown or road accident. The Smartplug knows when you’ve had an accident and can help send emergency services to your exact location. 24/7 crash assistance is included with the policy so you can rest assured that you are protected at any time of the day or night.

Think you’re a careful driver? Then why not try to reduce what you pay?

Get a quote for black box insurance today.