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Higher Insurance Rates for Safety

Reported on CNN Interactive, Oct. 17, 1997

Owners of sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and vans may get hit with higher insurance rates because of the damage they cause in crashes with smaller vehicles while people who own smaller cars may get a break on their insurance because they cause less damage to other vehicles.

What!? Go back and read that again.

Sport Utility VehicleSome insurance companies, led by Farmers Insurance Group and Progressive Corp. are suggesting a new way of doing business. What they are suggesting is basing liability insurance on the make and model of the vehicle instead of basing it on the driver -- using age, sex, driving record and other factors to determine how likely the person will be involved in an accident. Never mind that the driver of the larger vehicle is probably safer in that large vehicle.

According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, the vehicles with the lowest death rates are large and midsize station wagons/passenger vans, large and midsize luxury cars, and large utility vehicles. The groups with the highest rates are small and midsize sports cars, small two- and four-door cars, small pickups, and small utility vehicles.
However, the government claims because of weaker brakes, lack of maneuverability and a propensity to roll over in a collision make sport utility vehicles, minivans and pickups a serious safety threat to their occupants and others. In accidents, SUVs may pose an even greater hazard to smaller cars. With their substantial weight and high bumpers, SUVs miss the crumple zone of the cars they strike; they often smash the passenger compartments instead.

Folks, these insurance companies just are not satisfied with how much of your money they are getting. Eyeing the fact that larger vehicles account for more than half of new vehicle sales in the United States, and that their popularity is continuing to rise, these folks are beginning to gleefully count more of your money - as theirs.

They must figure that since the larger vehicles cost more, those who can afford them should also pay higher insurance premiums. Besides, who drives those sport utility vehicles and vans anyway? Hey, it's 'soccer moms' and sportsmen. Surely if those families can afford all those sporting activities for their kids they have more disposable income to redistribute to the less fortunate person driving subcompact cars, such as the Ford Festiva and Dodge Colt.

Or maybe these bleeding-heart liberals see getting people out of SUV's as somehow bringing "fairness" in auto accidents. Since the driver of the SUV is less likely to suffer injury in a crash, and the driver of the smaller car is more likely to suffer injury, their idea of fairness is to remove the safety advantage of the SUV owner.

In a limited experiment in the Pennsylvania market sport-utility owners are charged a 5-percent premium for having the larger vehicles, while certain passenger car owners receive a 10-percent discount.

What can you do about it? Well, probably nothing besides giving them more of your money. There's no option to 'opt-out' because they have already managed to pass into law a requirement for you to carry liability insurance. State laws require us to buy coverage for vaguely defined noneconomic damages. And that's where big lawsuits, hefty attorney fees and higher auto insurance premiums come in. Want to venture a guess who spearheaded those laws? (hint: insurance companies and attorneys) What a novel idea - require people by law to buy your product (insurance) and then raise the price of it over and over and over again. Is it any wonder these insurance peddlers are so wealthy? Hey! It's Your Money!

Other Auto Insurance Scams

In New Jersey and Illinois there is the territorial rate structure that allows companies to charge city drivers as much as 35 percent more for auto insurance than they charge suburban drivers. Rates are not based on factors as driving record, years of experience and the value of the vehicle. Rather rating factors such as sex, age, marital status and place of residence are used. Any hint of discrimination here?

Between 1987 and 1994, auto insurance premiums rose 44 percent -- or one-and-a-half times the rate of inflation. By 1995, the average auto insurance premium cost more than $750 a year. These rising costs affect every driver in America, but they hit lower-income drivers particularly hard. One study in Arizona showed that lower-income families spent as much as one-third of their household income on auto insurance, and often chose to forgo insurance and break the law in order to pay for food and housing.