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The Iffy World of the 'Black Box'

I have, for a long time now, been a voice against car insurance costs for young people, both male and female. I remember a few years back when it was announced that the gender cost gap would be more or less equalised, and being really excited about it. I was fairly young and naive (just entering my teens, I think), and my thinking was that male costs would be pushed down to female prices. Of course I was wrong.

My main argument has always been: why start new drivers on a 'worse case scenario' kind of thing? Why charge them prices like they're the worst drivers ever? For sure, there are some dodgy kids out there, but then again there are some dodgy, blind OAPs as well. If I was in charge, I would start all new drivers - regardless of age - in the middle. Their premium will go down if nothing happens, but it will go up if they claim. Currently if a new driver makes a claim, their next policy won't really go up as such, because they're already being charged massively.

But that's not going to happen any time soon, so we have to work with what we've got. In the past few years or so, telematic insurance has become popular. This involves your insurer fitting a recording device in your car, which then tracks your speed, acceleration, braking, time of driving, and sometimes your cornering, depending on who you're insured with. It's a bit creepy and breaks your freedom somewhat, but realistically it's the only way new, young drivers can get on the road. Case in point: myself. I have a bog-standard 1.2l Corsa from 2009. With a telematics box, the insurance worked out to be £1,300 for the year, which is OK. The cheapest policy without a box was over £4,000. Yes, really.

My car is this exact model. As you can see, it's hardly a pocket rocket

So of course I have a telematics policy (otherwise known as Black Box insurance to others), and this post is all about my choppy experience with it so far. If any of you are curious, I am with Hastings Smart Miles, so other insurers may give you different experiences.

Right from the very start, there were some peculiar gremlins. I had about two weeks of carefree driving before the box itself was actually fitted, though I didn't really drive like a maniac because I was still getting used to the new car. The box was fitted on the 3rd April 2016, in a place where I couldn't see it. Things were cool.

It took a few days before the first lot of data arrived for me to view, and these first results seemed a bit.. off. My speed, time of day and braking were all nice and high (in the 80s, 90s and even a perfect 100 for the time of day), but the acceleration was pegged at 0. What? I get that I might not be the most economical driver around, but to get 0 would surely mean every time you pull away you were doing burnouts.  Though I may have done a spirited burst of acceleration every now and then, it was always neutralised by at least 20 'normal' rounds of acceleration. Even a score of 50 would've been a bit harsh. No matter though, I'll just wait for it to correct itself.

This has given me constant grief
But this correction never happened. I know it never happened, because by this point I had started a part-time job, which involved me at times driving at what Hastings considers the night period. Yet my time of day score was kept at 100, so something obviously wasn't right. In fact, my score remained exactly the same for well over a month, which was a little concerning, because I couldn't keep track on how badly I was supposedly driving.

The data did finally update just under a week ago, and the results were awful. My time of day, as I write this now, is now at 0. Yes, despite the fact 83% of my driving is done during the day, my score is now 0. My speed is 34, as is my acceleration. I accept I can fix that, because I, by my own admittance, don't do 20mph in the 20 zones, and my bursts of acceleration have become more frequent now that my confidence of driving has grown. But I find the new time of day score to be dangerously false. If my overall score drops below 25 (and it'd only take for me to brake sharply a couple of times to do that), then they will cancel my policy.

Having this black box is scary and nerve-wrecking. I feel I'm being penalised, just because my job finishes later than the average Joe. It sucks away any freedom and flexibility driving should give you, but then again it does give you a big discount. So it's up to you really, it depends on how much you want to sacrifice. If I had my say, I'd point out that if you can afford to not have a black box, just go for that and pay the bit more. I don't think it's worth the fear that they have the power to randomly cut you off the road, and keep all your money while they're at it.



The Iffy World of the 'Black Box' The Iffy World of the 'Black Box' Reviewed by Jack Cooper on 07:25 Rating: 5

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