Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

'Black box' bid to cut premiums

Almost a fifth of new drivers in Northern Ireland have some kind of collision within their first six months of driving

Aircraft-style black boxes could be installed in new drivers' cars to help cut insurance premiums and reduce accidents in Northern Ireland, the DoE has claimed.

DoE minister Alex Attwood is meeting insurers, and use of the technology, which monitors driver behaviour, is one option on the table to help tackle soaring premiums. They are 11% higher in Northern Ireland than in Great Britain, although the gap can be up to 70% in rural areas.

Almost a fifth of new drivers have some kind of collision within their first six months of driving. Young car drivers are twice as likely to be responsible for a fatal or serious collision than older drivers, the DoE said.

Mr Attwood said: "Departmental officials have also been exploring with the local motor insurance industry representatives the potential availability in Northern Ireland of young driver 'Pay How You Drive' insurance products linked to in-car technology capable of monitoring driving performance."

The scheme is unlikely to require legislation but has already been piloted by large insurance companies in Great Britain.

It works by placing a box as small as two cigarette containers in the car and can record speeds in certain locations, use of brakes and poor steering using satellite positioning systems. It would be aimed at drivers aged under 25 and could mean reducing premiums after evidence of good driving or cancelling insurance if reckless behaviour is recorded.

Between 2004 and 2008, 17 to 24-year-old drivers were responsible for a quarter of road fatalities and a fifth of all road serious injuries in Northern Ireland. This amounts to 163 deaths and 1,237 serious injuries, DoE statistics revealed.

Mr Attwood is establishing a group to review road safety measures and will be meeting with British insurers to discuss what other systems could be in place. Measures favoured by the industry include a ban on night time driving and restricting passengers to family members for new drivers but Mr Attwood has not endorsed those positions.

"The point of the exercise over the next five months is to see... if we can find what more can be done to find a remedy to the problem of higher rural quotes and higher premiums," he said.

He favours increasing the speed at which restricted drivers can travel to create more realistic conditions in places such as motorways. Other potential options include extending the period a driver is restricted or granting provisional licences earlier but stipulating a minimum period before they can obtain a full licence.

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