Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Money You Save May Be Your Own

     My new auto insurance bill came last week, showing a $120 increase for the next six-month period. Yikes! So I got on the phone and called my agent. She told me that my discount had expired from when I had taken the Motor Vehicle Accident Prevention Course three years ago.

     So I had to take the course again. You can sign up and go to a class. But I elected to do it on the computer. It consists of a series of pages that review all the stuff you already know about auto safety. The pages are timed, so you can't go too fast, and periodically you have to answer a question to make sure it's you taking the test, and not somebody else.

     The minimum amount to time allowed for the test is six hours. Six hours of sheer boredom. But it does remind you of a few things. And it does save you 10 percent on your auto policy for three years.

     So here are some of the things I found out from taking the test. You're not supposed to drink and drive. You're not supposed to speed or roll through stop signs or run a red light. Personally, I have never run a red light. Have you? If so, you're not alone -- 56 percent of drivers admit that they have!

     Here are a few other things I found surprising -- or if not surprising, at least telling . . .

     People over age 65 make up approximately 12 percent of all drivers. In general they get into fewer accidents than other age groups. But people over 65 account for 16 percent of crash fatalities, presumably because when they do sustain injuries they are less likely to survive them.

     I was also surprised to find out that people over 65 account for 19 percent of pedestrian fatalities. So be careful when you're crossing the street or walking through the parking lot!

     In 2010 -- the figures they had on the test -- there were 32,788 Americans killed on the road, many fewer fatalities than the bad old days of the 1960s and '70s, before air bags and seat belts, when over 50,000 people were killed each year. However, I recently read on CNN that so far in 2015 auto fatalities have actually increased over last year, and they are speeding along at the highest rate since 2007.

     A little less than 5 percent of fatal crashes are due to a driver falling asleep. You're most susceptible to falling asleep when you're sleep deprived, obviously. But people are also more likely to fall asleep at the wheel when they're driving alone, driving at night, driving on long trips. Truck drivers are more likely to fall sleep than regular drivers.

     About 12 percent of fatal accidents involve large trucks.

     About 15 percent of highway fatalities involve a motorcycle. Per mile driven, a motorcyclist is 34 times more likely to die in a crash than a passenger in a car.

     Some 30 percent of crash fatalities involve drivers who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

     But even slightly more than that -- 31 percent -- are caused primarily by speeding.

     The reason speed is so dangerous is because it cuts your reaction time if something goes wrong. At 55 mph, by the time you recognize a problem, react and then brake, it will take about six seconds to stop and you will have traveled 100 yards. At 70 mph, it will take the same six seconds, but by then you will have gone over 150 yards before you stop -- that's 50 more yards when you can run into something, or someone.

     There's also a reason why speed is so deadly. I don't pretend to know the physics of it. But what causes injury and death is the force of impact against the human body. The force of impact is in direct proportion to the weight of a vehicle, which is why, all other things being equal (which they rarely are), heavier vehicles are safer than lighter vehicles. But force of impact has a squared relationship to speed, which is why, no matter how equal or unequal everything else is, you're a lot more likely to suffer severe injury or death at 70 mph than you are even at 60 mph.

     So there you have it. I'm sorry. I can't offer you a 10 percent discount on your auto policy. But at least my policy will be going up only $40, instead of $120 for next year. And hopefully, I'll stay alive long enough to reap the benefit!


Anonymous said...

We seldom drive outside the beltway, and stay off roads with a greater than 40mph speed limit. Still David. Recently had an accident with a motorcyclist who ran into him. He'll never take this course and I probably won't either, but good for you.

Snowbrush said...

If that's the AARP course, I've taken it twice on a computer and hated it even more the second time. It's nothing more than a hoop to jump through to save money.

Florence said...

Joe and I took the class and while you are right in that much of it is boring, I think it was worth the time to refresh my memory of safe driving practices. The statistics you listed are interesting and worth considering. And I like to get the discount!!

Anonymous said...

Because of the volunteer work that I do, I am required to take a driving course every two years, so my insurance always includes the discount for having taken a driving course in the past three years. Yes, I could take a course on-line; but, I do believe I get more out of a classroom setting. I don't "zone out" as much. Even with cars that now have backup cameras, I still follow a tip given in one of the driving courses: when parking in a parking lot, if I have a choice, I pull through so that I can leave the parking space going forward instead of backing.

Another tip that I follow, not because it was given in class but because a police officer told a friend: When pulling up to an intersection at which I am required to stop, I count to three (no, I don't say "Mississippi"!) after stopping, before driving forward. This keeps me from being told that I failed to come to a complete stop should a traffic cop be so inclined.
Cop Car

Linda Myers said...

I'll take the course online. I can do boredom and I know I'll relearn stuff. Thanks!

DJan said...

I think that my reaction time to sudden unexpected events has also slowed way down as I age. Add that to the rest, and I can see why older people have more fatal accidents. This was all good information, Tom. Thanks for all these reminders and I did learn a few things. :-)

Stephen Hayes said...

A hassle yes, but that is a good savings.

Janette said...

I was shocked that my 85 yr old mother got her license renewed without a road test!
A refresher course, even a boring one, seems like a good idea.
It usually reminds me of all of the small things I forget---like who goes first at a four way stop!
It would be worth even more if I got a discount!

joared said...

Seems to me taking the written Cakif. State test and passing it adequately provides information necessary for safe driving and the add'l test you describe for a discount is a gimmick. They offer the test here, too. Recently I learned my rate will rise automatically if I stop working. That seems an inappropriate reason for increasing a rate to me.

Juhli said...

I too took the online course and hated the timed aspect but wanted the discount. If people are considering taking it to save money I suggest shopping around. I happened upon a summer discount and then later learned my library offered the in person class for free. Also, I learned the hard way to keep the certificate of completion as our insurance agent lost their record of mine one year before it expired and I didn't have it either!

Jeannine said...

Great article! Many good tips, but here is one from my over the road truck driving son: The most dangerous hours are 5:00 to 7:00 in the morning for sleepiness. And it does NOT matter how well rested the driver is. So, be careful folks at all times, but especially at those times. Either YOU or the OTHER GUY might be just a little too drowsy.

Kathy @ SMART Living said...

Hi Tom! Thanks for the info? Is this discount only available through certain insurance policies or at a certain age? I've never heard of it before but I wouldn't mind saving 10%. I am definitely going to search around about this and see what I can come up with. And as for boring...I just had to complete my Broker License Renewal in Cali and talk about boring!!! ~Kathy

Tom Sightings said...

Joared, I agree it's a gimmick; but the discount adds up to almost $500 for me over 3 years, so worth the time. Jeannine -- Interesting point. Another good reason not to get up and out too early in the morning! And Kathy, I found out about it originally from my State Farm insurance agent; a number of sites offer the course, inclu. AARP. I'm in New York, which offers the discount; but I dunno abt. Calif. or anywhere else. Shouldn't be hard to find out though. Good luck!

Tabor said...

Good advice and maybe we have that here?