We all know that texting while driving is dangerous behavior that leads to accidents and fatalities. The industry that created the apps that can be so difficult for some drivers to resist is trying to rectify the situation by creating a “watchdog” app—but this one could get you smacked with higher insurance rates.
What Is the “Watchdog App” Allstate Might Use to Track Your Phone Use While Driving?
Allstate is considering using an app that tracks use of your smartphone while your car is moving. Arity, a division of Allstate, is working on an app that combines an accelerometer—which tells how fast the vehicle is traveling—and a gyroscope—which detects if you pick up or move your phone while the car is in motion. The app can distinguish between when your phone lying untouched on a flat surface and when you hold the phone in your hand. It can also tell whether your phone is in airplane mode and whether you are using any apps.
How Can the App Result in Higher Insurance Premiums?
Based on data that indicates that drivers who use their phones are more dangerous than drivers who do not, Allstate might use the app as justification for increasing your car insurance premiums. Allstate asserts that it is 160 percent more expensive to insure distracted drivers than drivers who focus on the road.
Will the App Unfairly Punish Drivers Whose Passengers Use the Driver’s Cellphone?
It is unclear how the app will address the issue of a passenger using the driver’s cell phone. Will the driver face penalties, for example, if a passenger plays music through the vehicle’s stereo system using the driver’s phone?
While reducing distracted driving is a laudable goal, the technology must be able to distinguish the driver from a passenger in order to avoid punishing innocent people. That sort of technology has not yet made its debut.
How Quickly Might Insurance Companies Use the New App?
Three critical steps must happen before use of this app becomes a reality:
- State insurance offices must approve the app—and the regulatory approval process can move slowly;
- Allstate must get your consent as a driver; and
- You will have to download the app before Allstate can use it to track your driving behavior.
Are There Ways Around the App Penalizing You?
The app developer suggests that there may be ways to “game” the app, such as using a mounted cradle rather than holding the phone in your hand. Also, you might be able to activate a navigation app before putting your car in motion, if you make sure you do not touch your phone while en route to your destination.