B.C. drivers could get insurance discount for using phone-disabling apps
British Columbia’s public auto insurance provider is considering a discount for drivers who use digital driving habit monitors or install app-based nannies on their smartphones to prevent them from accessing the device while behind the wheel.
B.C. Attorney General David Eby said he has directed the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) to conduct a feasibility study into voluntary tech-based options that would improve safety and lower insurance rates. The inquiry comes as the provincial crown corporation grapples with rising costs from claims and legal fees, and more accidents on the roads.
ICBC spokesperson Joanna Linsangan said the number of crashes spiked by 23 per cent in the last three years. Distracted driving is an increasingly common cause.
“We are seeing 320,000 crashes every year in B.C. Every one or two minutes, a crash is happening somewhere,” she told CTV Vancouver. “Distracted driving is the cause of over 27 per cent of the fatalities that you see on the roads.”
ICBC started researching tech-based approaches to curbing digital distractions and rewarding good driving habits in April, issuing a request for information from companies that could provide market research and anti-distracted driving tools.
Linsangan said a number of U.S.-based auto insurance providers are already offering so-called usage based rates based on driving data. Apps that make sure you’re not texting, she suggests, could be a first step for B.C. drivers.
“It would be easy to say that we are fighting technology with technology, but really what we are trying to do is stop bad driving behavior with technology. A distracted driving app could be a solution for that,” Linsangan said.
Several options are already available for blocking calls and texts on Android and iOS devices.
Silicon Valley-based Life Apps offers its LifeSaver app for free on both platforms. The software lays dormant until it detects driving and locks up the device. Hands-free calls are allowed to be picked up. Parents can also adjust the phone disabling settings for when the user is a passenger.
“Potentially people could have lower insurance rates if they agree to implement these technologies in their vehicles,” Eby said. Though he admits the plan is not without its hurdles -- one being privacy.
Handing over smartphone and location-based driving data to the province may not sit well some drivers. Many of the smartphone apps also require the owner to grant permissions access phone, text message, and location information.
“These technologies are a double-edged sword,” said Eby. “You give up a certain amount of privacy with respect to your driving habits, and in exchange, because ICBC has a better idea about your driving habits, you may be able to receive a lower rate.”
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Sheila Scott