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How The Hand Held Device Snapshot Is Helping Insurers

From insurance giant Progressive comes a hand-sized device known as Snapshot DeviceSnapshot, now available in 40 U.S. States. It plugs into a car’s computer system, and half a million U.S. policyholders are experimenting with it, or already have. It monitors motorists’ habits, including mileage, as they drive, and records results in real time. The data is wirelessly uploaded to Progressive’s website, where clients can each view their own progress from home. Safer drivers can see lower auto insurance rates especially if they don’t drive much. The device itself is another vehicle safety feature, resulting in still lower rates for users, up to a total of 30 percent.

The device’s use is included on a six month policy, or automatically renewed at the end of that term on an annual policy. Savings are available after one month, and discounts are available for continued use. Other such programs are available from other insurance providers, but they only record mileage. Of them all, Snapshot is most widely used, and in 2011, the usage-based program was expanded in three more states.

In 2009, the University of Delaware investigated a plan to implement vehicle miles of travel (VMT) as a method of estimating new usage fees to motorists. Transportation bureaucrats in particular are paying close attention to new data provided by Snapshot. The transportation system has for many years been largely funded by fuel taxes, and researchers are saying that VMT fees could supplement them.

Through the use of Snapshot, Progressive has readjusted its rates for motorists who are using the telephone or the internet to obtain coverage. In West Virginia, which is one of the poorest states in the nation, the company claimed that it regularly makes changes to save people money on their policies, and the statewide average recently dropped there.

Some of the public doesn’t like Progressive’s new invention, however, claiming it invades their privacy, and that their driving habits are none of the company’s business. To get lower car insurance premiums, the privacy trade-off is voluntarily made. People say it records brake use and how many miles are driven. From this, Progressive claims that hard braking shows a tendency to dangerous driving habits, and accurately predicts accident risk. Critics claim that participation in the program is akin to permitting “Big Brother” to ride shotgun in your passenger seat.

It’s scary enough, they say, to be experimenting with these things in privatelyRFID Chip owned cars and trucks, but to be driving a commercial vehicle on company time is a whole other set of rules. Penske Logistics, for example, routinely monitors its own drivers with radio frequency identification tags (RFID), and knows where they are at all times. In the commercial world, it’s no longer a question of whether “Big Brother” is watching or not; he is, and he has been for a long time.

Even so, the Snapshot device is becoming increasing popular, simply because regular use saves people money on their automobile insurance. Most people believe in driving carefully, and that it’s the “bad apples” on the road that ruin it for everyone else. “Who cares if my insurance provider knows when, where, and how far I drive,” they ask. “I’m not a bad driver, so why should I worry about someone watching me?” The other side of the coin, critics say, is that no one should be able to see what they do, and that the United States is a free country. The only question that remains is, how much freedom are you willing to give up to save some money?

Greg Fowler

Greg Fowler

Managing Member of AutoInsureSavings LLC, Greg has been in the insurance industry for 12 years and enjoys rebuilding vehicles. His goal is to help drivers save on anything related to automobiles. Travel and enjoying the outdoors are some of his hobbies. The best way to reach him is at his Twitter or Facebook Profile.

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