Pay-by-the-mile insurance targets green drivers

| Print |  Email
Archives - June 2009
Monday, June 01, 2009
ATSOdometer Jeffrey Lang is hoping the time is finally right to change how drivers pay for car insurance. For years the president of Portland-based Gales Creek Insurance Services has lobbied lawmakers and insurance companies to make the shift to pay-by-the-mile auto insurance. It has been a long grind, but he is releasing a product to market this summer.

Pay-as-you-drive auto insurance is a perennial favorite of policy wonks and conservationists as a simple way to reduce traffic, air pollution and car accidents. But six years after the Oregon Legislature began offering tax credits for mileage-based programs, not one insurance company has signed up enough drivers to qualify.

Lang, a bicycle commuter who studied urban planning at Berkeley, aims to change that. His 17-employee firm works out of a third-floor office in Union Station providing creative insurance products for nonprofits and municipalities, and he’s hoping to find a similar niche for pay-by-the-mile car insurance. He sees it as a useful tool not only for encouraging people to drive less but also for improving the data formula used by insurance companies to set rates.

The first step to setting up a new policy would be to install a monitoring device under the dashboard, similar to the navigation systems that have exploded in the marketplace in recent years (although not all models use GPS technology for privacy reasons). Lang recently traveled to the East Coast to sample several devices on the market.

“Once you have a good system you could monitor things that could create good actuarial data,” says Lang. “We want to reward people who drive at the least risky time, for example. We’re also interested in monitoring the lead-footed driver.”

That’s a lot of monitoring. It remains to be seen how closely drivers are willing to be watched by their insurance companies, given recent uproars over phone-tapping and electronic surveillance. The American Civil Liberties Union has raised privacy concerns about the potential abuses of granting new access to insurance companies.

Another question involves money. If pay-by-the-mile insurance results in lower premiums for occasional drivers, how would insurance companies compensate for those lost revenues? It seems unlikely they will absorb those losses for the good of the planet.

Still, given the proven willingness of Oregonians to pay more for green products such as wind power and organic fruit, finding people to go green while saving money shouldn’t be difficult. Progressive Insurance has been experimenting with “usage based” auto insurance in Oregon since December 2006, but has yet to offer it through brokers. Progressive’s general manager of the program, Richard Hutchinson, won’t share how many policies have been written here, but he does say, “We’re trying to get the lead in this area.”

So is Lang. He hopes to sign up 1,000 people for the upcoming launch of his version. “We want to prove to Oregon that this is viable,” he says.
BEN JACKLET
 

More Articles

6 highlights from the Craft Brewers Conference

The Latest
Friday, April 17, 2015
thumbPHOTOS BY  JASON E. KAPLAN

The 32nd annual CBC attracted a record number of attendees (11,000)  to the Oregon Convention Center.


Read more...

5 questions about the FLIR FX

The Latest
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
FLIR-FX-IndoorBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The Wilsonville-based company is targeting GoPro enthusiasts with its latest release. Is spy gear poised to go mainstream?


Read more...

Car Talk

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Everyone knows cell phones and driving are a lethal combination. The risk is especially high for teenage drivers, whose delusions of immortality pose such a threat to us all. Enforcement alas, remains feeble; more promising are pedagogical approaches aimed at getting people to focus on the road, not their devices.


Read more...

Announcing the date of the 100 Best Green Workplaces in Oregon event

News
Friday, March 20, 2015
OBM-100-best-Green-logo-2015-250pxwBY OB STAFF

Join us to celebrate and network with Oregon’s best green workplaces!


Read more...

Banking Perspective

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Craig Wanichek, president and CEO of Summit Bank.


Read more...

Get on the bus!

April 2015
Thursday, March 19, 2015
BY APRIL STREETER

How the private sector can ride the next transit revolution.


Read more...

Letting Go

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

As baby boomers sell their businesses, too many forget the all-important succession plan.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS