Saturday 16 December 2017 07.00 GMT
Billions of miles have been driven on Britain’s roads this decade in cars fitted with “telematics” boxes recording every detail of a driver’s behaviour – whether they are speeding on a 30mph urban road, how they are cornering on a country road, and how they are braking or accelerating on a motorway.
Installed in about 1m cars by insurance companies, they offer drivers – usually 17 to 25-year-olds – less costly insurance if they drive more carefully. But the telematics black boxes also reveal a wealth of data about how Britain drives – debunking a lot of modern myths, but confirming many others.
Insurethebox, Britain’s biggest telematics insurance provider, now holds more than 3bn miles of driving data and associated claims since 2010. Marmalade is the other major black box player in the young driver market, while Coverbox is a newer entrant focusing on extending telematics to middle-aged and older drivers. Here’s what their data and findings is telling us about driving behaviour – and how much you might save (or not) from installing a black box recorder in your own car.
• 17-year-olds are safer drivers than 18 and 19-year-olds. According to Sarah Vaughan, head of pricing at Insurethebox, youngsters passing their test at 17 drive relatively safely: “Seventeen-year-olds are not the worst drivers. Actually, many new drivers at age 17 drive really modestly in speed terms. Maybe they are just gaining confidence. Their behaviour then deteriorates over the age of 18. It is two to three years after obtaining a licence that speed risk is highest.”
• Women are better drivers than men. The telematics data confirms that women drive more carefully, at lower speeds, and have fewer accidents than male drivers. EU rules prohibit insurers from discriminating on the basis of gender and were very controversial when introduced, as they meant insurers could no longer charge higher premiums to young men than women. “The data supports the old insurance model where males were historically priced more highly than females. On average, they do driver faster – that’s what the telematics tell you. But you can use telematics to prove that you are a good driver, irrespective of your gender,” says Vaughan.
Marmalade says men (54%) make more claims than women (46%), with the average male claim costing £2,566 compared with the average female payout of £2,345.
• Country roads with 60mph limits are a deathtrap for young drivers. Telematics devices know which type of road the driver is on, and find that young and inexperienced drivers handle winding roads poorly.
“When you are on a country road with a 60mph limit, you shouldn’t be doing anywhere near 60mph,” says Vaughan. “What young people need is more help in understanding where it is inappropriate to driven near the limit.”
Crispin Moger of Marmalade says: “Many newly qualified drivers still are too scared to drive on motorways. This results in them spending more time on rural roads. With narrow lanes, blind corners and slow-moving vehicles, these can be far more dangerous than the motorway: according to information published on gov.uk, 80% of young driver fatalities occur on rural roads.”
• Erratic driving that causes accidents starts from the moment you leave home. The data shows that drivers often handle a vehicle erratically for some time before becoming involved in an accident, for example after having an argument. Coverbox says it generates a 30-page report on every claims incident, which includes detailing the driving behaviour prior to the accident. “We see a trend of very fast and erratic driving which is different from the driver’s normal behaviour. Quite often it’s during the day rather than at night,” says Coverbox director Howard Collinge.