Home Back Issues June 2009 Pay-by-the-mile insurance targets green drivers

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

Are millennials reshaping politics in the Pacific Northwest?

News
Wednesday, April 02, 2014

MillennialsThumbA new report explores the impact of millennials on Oregon's business and political climate.


Read more...

Eking out a living

News
Tuesday, April 08, 2014
04.08.14 thumb ourtable-coopfarmsBY HANNAH WALLACE | OB BLOGGER

It may be obvious, but most farmers don’t make a lot of money. According to preliminary data from the 2012 Agriculture Census, 52% of America’s 2.1 million principal farm-operators don’t call farming their primary occupation. Farm cooperatives may offer a solution.


Read more...

The 2014 List: The Top 33 Large Companies to Work, For in Oregon

March 2014
Thursday, February 27, 2014

100best14logoWebOur 100 Best Companies project turned 21 this year, so pop open the Champagne. Our latest survey gives us plenty to cheer.

 


Read more...

Wheel man

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Les Schwab has put a premium on customer service since 1952, when legendary namesake Les Schwab founded the company with one store in Prineville. (Schwab died in 2007.) But if the corporate principles remain essentially the same, the world around this iconic Oregon business has changed dramatically.


Read more...

Closing the gap: Community colleges and workforce training

News
Thursday, March 27, 2014
03.27.14 thumb collegeBY MARY SPILDE | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Community college career, technical and workforce programs present an opportunity to bring business and education together as never before.


Read more...

Banishing oil burners reaps benefits for schools

News
Tuesday, April 01, 2014
04.02.14 thumb co2schoolsBY APRIL STREETER | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Three years ago, PPS set out to begin to convert the 1930s-era boilers from diesel/bunker fuel to cleaner-burning natural gas. Oregon’s largest school district has realized impressive carbon dioxide emissions reductions, setting an example for public and private institutions.


Read more...

Why I became an educator

News
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
03.04.14 thumbnail teachBY DEBRA RINGOLD | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

How can we strengthen the performance of institutions charged with teaching what Francis Fukuyama calls the social virtues (reciprocity, moral obligation, duty toward community, and trust) necessary for successful markets and democracy itself?


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