Are we se­ri­ous about sav­ing lives?

The Standard Journal - - POLICE & FIRE - DAVID CAR­ROLL

What if I told you there is a sure­fire way to re­duce auto ac­ci­dents, and pre­vent a con­sid­er­able amount of fa­tal­i­ties? You would be in­ter­ested, right?

I would then tell you that this tech­nol­ogy al­ready ex­ists, and that most driv­ers al­ready have it in their pocket or their purse.

Of course, I’m talk­ing about your smart­phone. Your phone can prob­a­bly check your heart rate, your blood pres­sure, and how many steps you take each day. It can also track your driv­ing habits. Free apps can track your lo­ca­tion, your speed, your ac­cel­er­a­tion and brak­ing, and the time of day you drive.

If you have a map­ping app like Waze, your phone knows where you are, and can help you avoid a traf­fic jam. In re­cent years, in­surance com­pa­nies have fig­ured out that your phone’s GPS, ac­celerom­e­ter and gy­ro­scope can help them de­ter­mine if you are a safe driver. The cur­rent plague of dis­tracted driv­ing is re­sult­ing in more rear-end crashes. In­sur­ers be­lieve that if you are slam­ming on the brakes fre­quently, you aren’t pay­ing at­ten­tion.

Be­fore we go any fur­ther, I hear you. “In­va­sion of pri­vacy! It’s my busi­ness how I drive!”

I know there are strong opin­ions about pri­vacy is­sues, but let’s be hon­est. This is the age of sur­veil­lance. From our front porches, to just about ev­ery pub­lic build­ing we en­ter, we are be­ing watched. The sur­veil­lance is mak­ing us safer.

I re­cently wrote about auto in­surance rates. When my pre­vi­ous in­surer raised rates for no ap­par­ent rea­son, I switched in­sur­ers. I signed up with one of the com­pa­nies that of­fers a dis­count based on the in­for­ma­tion they re­ceive from my driv­ing app. Ba­si­cally, I’m bet­ting on my fam­ily. If we main­tain safe speeds, avoid hard brak­ing and fast ac­cel­er­a­tion as well as stay off the streets dur­ing heavy traf­fic pe­ri­ods, I will save hun­dreds of dol­lars a year.

How­ever, if the app de­tects that I’m speed­ing, mak­ing harsh turns, sud­den stops or fast ac­cel­er­a­tions, I will be charged more. Ladies and gen­tle­men, this is called “in­cen­tive.” I am be­ing tracked for 90 days, and how I drive dur­ing this pe­riod will de­ter­mine my in­surance rates for years to come (this is a one-time pro­gram).

Do I even need to tell you that I’m be­ing much more care­ful? As I write this, I’m about 30 days into the pro­gram, and so far I’ve earned all A’s. Bot­tom line: I’m pay­ing more at­ten­tion. I’m de­ter­mined to be a bet­ter driver. It’s amaz­ing what wav­ing a few dol­lars at a guy will do for his driv­ing.

A few days ago, I drove from Chat­tanooga to Nashville on a Sun­day af­ter­noon. On the way back, east­bound traf­fic on In­ter­state 24 just out­side Nashville was blow­ing past me. My in­surance agent had warned me that I would be “dinged” for ex­ceed­ing the speed limit by 10 miles per hour. So I was hold­ing at a steady 78 MPH, and al­most got blown off the road. Pass­ing speed­sters were sneer­ing at me as if I were the Lit­tle Old Lady from Pasadena. Many were weav­ing in and out of traf­fic at well over 90.

Ob­vi­ously, those speed demons were not par­tic­i­pat­ing in a driv­ing de­tec­tion pro­gram that will set their in­surance rates. But what if they were? Would they still be speed­ing and driv­ing reck­lessly?

I can guar­an­tee you that for 90 days at least, I’m a safer driver be­cause there’s some­thing on the line. There is a fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive. What if all of us, ev­ery time we start our car, knew that our in­surance com­pany had the au­thor­ity to pe­nal­ize us for dan­ger­ous driv­ing? How many in­juries and deaths would this pre­vent?

I know many Amer­i­cans would op­pose this idea. Per­haps they should speak to vic­tims of dan­ger­ous driv­ers. We all know some­one who has lost a loved one or suf­fered in­juries be­cause of the reck­less driv­ing of oth­ers. Does it alarm any­one else that our cars are equipped with more safety fea­tures than ever, yet traf­fic fa­tal­i­ties con­tinue to in­crease?

We talk a good game about mak­ing our high­ways safer. We put up clever high­way signs and we ask our police of­fi­cers to pull over a ran­dom speeder now and then. But are we re­ally se­ri­ous about slow­ing peo­ple down and sav­ing lives? Are we will­ing for our be­hav­ior to be mon­i­tored like in ele­men­tary school? If it means po­ten­tially sav­ing the lives of our chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, I don’t know how any­one could say no. What about you?

David Car­roll, a Chat­tanooga news an­chor, is the au­thor of “Vol­un­teer Bama Dawg,” a col­lec­tion of

his best col­umns. You may con­tact him at 900 White­hall Road, Chat­tanooga, Ten­nessee, 37405

or [email protected]

Car­roll

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