Car Insurer Esurance Unveils DriveSafe as Safety Tool for Teens

Esurance announced Wednesday the debut of a no-cost program that the auto insurance company said will help its policyholders who are parents to monitor their teen drivers and train those young motorists on the rules of the road.

DriveSafe operates through a telematics device that Esurance sends to participants who plug that device into the vehicle’s diagnostic port to track vehicle data. Parents access the data through a user-friendly portal where they can view a host of habits that their teen driver has while behind the wheel, including: how hard they brake; how fast they accelerate; when they drive; and where they drive.

Those are handy things to know if parents want to keep their “teenagers safe on the road,” according to Esurance.

And roads today are pretty dangerous for teenagers.

Teenage drivers carry “extra risk” because they “often don’t recognize or know how to respond to hazards,” according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which has conducted research showing that drivers between 16 years old and 19 years old are three times more likely than drivers 20 years old and up to die in a car crash, on a per-mile basis.

“Extra risk” for teens may be getting even riskier in an age of increasing behind-the-wheel distractions.

Esurance said that the DriveSafe program addresses a problem of distractions that “can be tough for anyone,” but seem to be especially tough for teenagers who are “particularly susceptible to distractions on the road.”

“You’ll also be able to view a full summary of how often they’re driving, where they’re headed, and if they’re doing anything unsafe like speeding,” Esurance said in describing the program. “You can even see how they compare with other teen drivers. Knowing your teen’s strengths and weaknesses behind the wheel can help you focus on specific areas for improvement.”

DriveSafe data can also be viewed by the teenager through his or her smartphone. The program allows parents to limit a smartphone’s capability of answering or dialing out phone calls and texts while the vehicle is in motion.

However, according to Esurance, DriveSafe won’t be able to override talk or text functionality on iPhones, which will instead display “a banner on [teens’] home screen reminding them not to use their phone while driving.”

DriveSafe Available in Most U.S. States

Yesterday’s DriveSafe announcement promoted the program’s availability in nearly all states where Esurance currently offers policies (the insurer said the program is not yet available in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania). Esurance customers with at least one teenage driver listed on their policy in these 39 states can enroll in DriveSafe:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Esurance said that DriveSafe data will not be used by the insurer to raise or lower auto insurance rates.

Danny Miller, an Esurance spokesman, told Online Auto Insurance News that DriveSafe is a unique program in a car insurance marketplace where, “no other company has an offering that combines text-blocking and driver behavior data into one technology solution.”

“Our tech addresses teenage distracted driving and helps call attention to risky driving behaviors,” Miller told OAIN.

New York a Battleground for Nation’s Mounting War Against Distracted Driving

One of the strongest voices to publicly back the DriveSafe kickoff came from New York, home to one of the nation’s more comprehensive and long-running campaigns to be conducted statewide against distracted driving and where Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently said that DriveSafe armed parents with “new tools to help their sons and daughters” from being distracted behind the wheel.

The New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) said crash data shows that driving while distracted may be a more grave concern on today’s roadways than driving while drunk.

DFS said Wednesday that Gov. Cuomo’s office greenlit regulatory approval for the program.

According to DFS, there was a 143 percent increase statewide in the number of cell phone-related crashes, compared to an 18 percent jump in alcohol-related crashes, between 2005 and 2011.

Those figures highlight distracted driving as a traffic safety concern that Gov. Cuomo made a leading concern over recent years. During that time, Gov. Cuomo heavily promoted traffic safety laws imposing harsher penalties on and enforcement against distracted drivers, in addition to ongoing awareness campaigns about the hazardous habit and its consequences.

The lesson is catching on. DriveSafe’s debut follows the availability of other products, including one announced by Sprint in September, that target various distraction-related activities and limit them behind the wheel.

Car insurance companies, which already generally charge more for teen car insurance because of young motorists’ unproven driving records and propensity for riskier habits, have also sounded the alarm over distracted driving.

Major insurers like Allstate, AAA and State Farm have sponsored dozens of studies over recent years addressing the impact of distractions on the nation’s youngest drivers.

An Allstate-sponsored survey released in March found that parents want to train their teens more on proper driving, yet only a third of the parents surveyed require that their teens get permission before driving.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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