Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Monday, March 03, 2003 Driving Premiums Up
It’s been two years since I got a speeding ticket. Two years and three days, to be exact. That means that if a cop pulls me over tonight—if a cop pulls me over five seconds from now—and gives me a ticket, I qualify for what’s called a diversion. What that means is that since my driving record is clear for the past twenty-four months, if I get a new citation I can go to court and say, “nuh-uhh, I was not neither going that fast, either.” And to save court costs, they’ll cut me loose and make me promise to behave for the next twelve months. If I can pull that off, it’ll be like today’s as-yet-hypothetical traffic ticket never happened.
This is the first time I’ve had two solid years of clean driving behind me since September of 1999, when my one-man vehicular crimewave commenced. I’ve been paying for my misdeeds behind the wheel ever since that sunny Utah afternoon. I’ve been counting the months until my three-year record would have only one speeding ticket on it. I made up a little Excel spreadsheet and everything. So when the three-year milepost from my second-most-recent expensive mistake flashed past, I got on the phone with my insurance company and said I no longer needed to pay the extortionate rates they charged driving time-bombs. I was rehabilitated, about as threatening to other drivers as a pedestrian on the sidewalk.
The customer service rep cheerily crunched the numbers, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t just imagining the note of approval in her voice upon hearing how I’d changed my ways. But as pleasant as that was, what I was really looking forward to hearing was the amount of cash I’d be saving on my insurance premiums now that I wasn’t Mr. Fast and Furious any more. The rep told me what I’d been paying on my current policy, a figure that made me wonder how I’d been able to pay for that and still buy air for the past three years. Then she read off what my premium would be if I cancelled the current policy and bought a new one.
The difference was enough to buy one person lunch for one business week. A business week with a holiday. And no Super-Sizing™. My record now has two fewer speeding tickets and one less accident, and yet the amount by which they’re reducing my premium is about what I’d expect for cleaning the road salt off my headlights.
I asked for an explanation. “Rates are going up,” is all they would say. “They’re going up all over. They’re going to keep going up.” So, to recap in executive summary form, rates are going up. They’re going up so fast that a brand-new policy for a driver with one ticket costs almost as much as a three-year-old policy for a driver with three tickets and an accident. And that, my friends, is Up. As in, “up yours, insurance companies.”
Maybe it’s because the last time I bought a car insurance policy we still had a World Trade Center. Terrorist activity and terrorist threats must play havoc with the actuarial charts. And so normal-driver rates have caught up with screaming-around-on-two-wheels-with-their-hair-on-fire-driver rates. I mean, if a cloud of VX nerve gas descends on Cleveland tomorrow, the grandparents and soccer moms are going to be hitting the median just as hard as the hot-rodders. But apparently State Farm won’t be covering cars lost in nuclear explosions. That’s got to drive premiums down a little bit, right (you just know the board of State Farm sat through The Sum of All Fears thinking, “Dude, if this really happens we’re going to get spanked.)? Maybe I should call them.
Of course, being unable to replace my car post-apocalypse will leave me at a crippling disadvantage if the economy ends up adopting the Mad Max model, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take if it’ll save me some substantial cash right now.
But all of this is beside the point, because it’s not just me I’m worried about. What about you, dear readers? You folks who can leave the driveway without the civil defense sirens going off, you law-abiding drivers, you people who’ve actually heard your own horn because you don’t drive fast enough to outrun the sound? How does it make you feel to know that a road hazard like me hasn’t been paying much more in insurance premiums than you are? You need to call your agents and tell them that you’re tired of carrying the scofflaws, that you want premiums that reflect what safe drivers you are. And what a safe driver I am too, now.
Here’s the bottom line: insurance is basically legalized gambling. We’re betting that our cars will be stolen or destroyed or driven into a crowd of schoolchildren by us or something in the next six months. It’s a bet we hope we’ll lose, and we’re happy to lose it every day except the day we send in the premium checks. I was hoping that with better odds, I wouldn’t be quite as much of a loser. I was wrong.
But I can’t wait until next year, when my last ticket drops off my record and I’ll be able to save another seventeen cents per year. That’s going to be sweet.
posted by M. Giant 3:22 PM 0 comments