You May Want To Reconsider Downloading An App That Monitors Your Driving

Posted: May 16 2018, 1:23pm CDT | by , in News

 
You May Want To Reconsider Downloading An App That Monitors Your Driving

Imagine piling into a rental car with your family and heading off to the woods for a week-long camping trip. One of your parents is driving, and you’re in the passenger seat tasked with navigation. You pull out your smartphone and engage the GPS system. Then, you receive a message from Facebook. Do you check it?

If you’ve installed an app from your insurance company designed to monitor your driving in order to save money, think twice about checking Facebook, even as a passenger.

Insurance apps don’t know when you’re the passenger or the driver

In the 1990’s, driving was monitored by plugging a device into your car’s diagnostic ports, sending data back to your insurer. These devices were created based on research that indicated drivers are more cautious when they know they’re being watched. Accident rates dropped about 20% with these devices.

Today, insurers create apps for smartphones to accomplish the same task. Apps are cheaper than the former devices, and more than two-thirds of the population owns a smartphone. The biggest benefit is an app can detect device-related distractions, which cause thousands of deaths each year.

The apps created by insurance companies use your phone’s built-in GPS, accelerometer, and gyroscope to rate your driving on a per-trip basis. The app can determine if you were speeding, driving smoothly, and if you were distracted by your mobile device. However, these apps aren’t accurate and can’t tell if you’re the driver or the passenger.

Distracted driving is such a big problem that Apple’s iOS 11 is programmed to automatically disable certain apps while the phone determines the owner is in a moving car. This is great when you’re the driver, but not when you’re the passenger.

Apps create evidence that can be used against you

Say you’re driving around with a friend in the passenger seat. You’ve got your insurer’s app installed to monitor your driving, and your friend has your phone. They’re responding to text messages, emails, and using Facebook. Then, another car hits you and the accident is completely their fault.

You weren’t using your phone at the time of the crash, but the evidence says otherwise. Your friend is your witness, but what if they skip town, or get discredited?

The data collected by the app could be used against you to prove comparative negligence – that you have a portion of responsibility for the accident for being distracted. If you were injured in the crash, this could significantly reduce the amount of compensation you can recover.

Attorney Craig Swapp explains, “for example, if you were awarded a sum of $250,000 but were found 25 percent at fault for causing the accident, your award would be reduced accordingly and you would instead receive $187,500.”

This is a good reason to rethink installing one of these apps.

Insurer’s apps aren’t accurate to begin with

One writer from the Chicago Tribune recounts their story of using their insurer’s app, and receiving a score they felt didn’t match up. Self-identifying as a law-abiding, cautious driver, they started their trip after placing their phone face down on the passenger seat. They never touched or interacted with their phone, yet the system docked 6 points from the “mobile distraction” category.

Furthermore, by the end of the trip, they’d received a score of 82, despite gentle stops, smooth accelerations, and graceful turns. When discussing the situation with their insurer, they were informed of the app’s limitations.

“The app tracks all movements of the phone,” said AAA spokeswoman Beth Moser. “therefore potholes and speed bumps can fool it into thinking the driver has picked up the phone to read a text or answer a call.”

Insurance companies exist to make a profit and are known for lowballing settlement offers and outright refusing to settle sometimes. Based on their track record, it’s unlikely that an insurance company would program their app to give anyone a perfect score.

You can turn off the app, but will you remember?

Apps that monitor your driving will run continually in the background unless you turn them off. This is comforting for those who want to save as much money as possible, but will you remember to turn it off before hopping in the car for a late night run with friends?

There’s much room for improvement

For now, the apps that monitor driving provide discounts for good driving. In the future, they’re likely to penalize drivers for poor driving with increased rates.

These apps are a step in the right direction, but have a long way to go before they can accurately measure what they intend to measure. In the meantime, it might be worth testing out to see how much you can save. Just be aware that you’re unlikely to get a score of 100% even when your driving is flawless.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/68" rel="author">Larry Alton</a>
Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

 

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