|By Karen Rivedal, The Wisconsin State Journal|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Drivers who participate in the program get a 5 percent discount immediately, and then are eligible for further cuts of up to 50 percent after six months of monitoring, depending on what the record shows.
"This is just a way for us to set better rates for customers who are good drivers," said
No doubt welcomed by many cost-conscious consumers, the voluntary program nonetheless raises alarm bells for those concerned about technology over-reach and the sharing of personal information with corporate interests.
"If people choose to (sign up for the program), that's up to them," said state Sen.
"I have huge privacy concerns (about the program)," he added. "Also, they are offering a 5 percent discount, and I would assume somebody's rates are going up somewhere else to pay for that."
Created in 2009, the program was first offered by
Other insurance companies, including Progressive and
"Telematics technology offers great promise for providing drivers and insurance companies meaningful data about their driving habits," Witmer said. "We will continue to pursue this and other emerging technologies that may benefit our customers moving forward."
American Family does offer a free monitoring program to try to reduce risky driving by teens.
Known as Teen Safe Driver, the program uses an in-car communication service known as
"It's a fair thing to question whether insurance companies know how to accurately measure risk from these data sets," Lee said. "Anytime you're dealing with data, you can analyze it well or poorly."
But Lee also said his research -- some of it partly funded by American Family -- convinced him that such systems can estimate risk accurately and provide feedback that helps people become safer drivers.
"There's a surprising amount of useful diagnostic information in how we drive, and this technology is making it possible to provide that back to the driver so they can better understand how to be safe," Lee said. "Which is fantastic, and just a wonderful opportunity to prevent (traffic crashes), the leading cause of death of people between 5 and 35."