| 1.4°C Belfast

How I'm up to speed with my acceleration


Frances Burscough

Frances Burscough

Frances Burscough

My 19-year-old son passed his driving test in November and then — coincidentally —a week afterwards he starred in that latest DOE advert about reckless driving among teenagers. In the last scene you see him and his group of mates trying in vain to escape from a crashed car as it sinks to the bottom of a lake. If I wasn’t worried enough about him as a fledgeling driver before then, seeing my worst nightmare acted out in front of me every night on TV was the last straw.

Although personally I trust that he would never do anything reckless, you can’t account for anyone else on the roads, can you? So you could say I was certainly in two minds about arranging for him to drive my car. Not only is it notoriously and extortionately expensive to insure a young male R-plate driver (thousands of pounds per year, in fact) but also there’s always going to be the worry in the back of my mind every time he goes out that he might never return.

However, I went to the insurance company anyway to get a quote and they suggested something that takes a lot of the worry out of driving. Certain insurance companies have in recent months started to use a new system for assessing motor insurance premiums. This involves a very clever device called a Telematics speed tracker that is like a little plastic box, about the size of a sat-nav, that you place on your dashboard and can be charged via a USB cable. As you drive, the tracker monitors the time, your location and the speed at which you are driving then all this information is automatically uploaded to the insurance company’s database. Any deviation from the speed or your manner of driving flags up an alert and they can then contact you directly using the information they have with your account.

Now this may sound like an invasion of privacy, but to me in my circumstances the advantages far outweigh any misgivings I may have. For a start, the insurers offered me a much lower price for joint car insurance if I agreed to the scheme. I’m talking a difference of hundreds of pounds.

Also, it gives me peace of mind because it acts as a constant reminder to be aware of the speed, whichever of us is driving. If my son is monitored driving erratically or above the relevant speed limit, then he will automatically be struck off the insurance and won’t be able to drive, so it also acts as a deterrent as well as a reminder. Not only that, but it can also be used to verify your exact speed, time and location if it is ever called into question, for example if you are involved in a collision. Furthermore, if your car is lost or stolen, or if you ever go missing, then its location can be simply and easily tracked by just a single phone call.

Now I must say I was a bit wary as to whether it works properly or not, but this week I had an experience that confirmed precisely how accurate it really is. I was driving down through Cumbria a few days ago to stay with my dad in Lancashire, when a two-car collision took place in front of me. In order to avoid the crash I had to swerve from the inside lane into the outside lane and to accelerate rapidly while doing so or I would have crashed myself. The following morning I got a phone call from the insurers to inform me that for ten seconds at 1700hrs on the 20th January on the M6 in Cumbria near the village of Shap, I was exceeding the highway speed limit. Talk about rapid response! 

I think this is an absolutely brilliant idea and an innovation that is almost certain to catch on very quickly. If you are a careful driver like I am and have always tried to be, then this will ensure that you are paying the fair insurance you deserve instead of an average price worked out according to your age, job title, model of car or no-claims bonus..

Of course there is bound to be an element of ‘Big Brother is Watching You’ about this kind of information-gathering  but it’s saving me a fortune and giving me peace of mind — and that can only be a good thing in my humble opinion. 

Belfast Telegraph