Driving with “Big Brother”

grilleI just got a notice from my car insurance company telling me that if I have a 1996 or newer vehicle and have In-Drive, or a 2004 or newer vehicle equipped with OnStar, I can save big money on my insurance.

They, of all people, know that my car is much older than that, but insurance companies are not in the business of thinking, apparently, and just mindlessly stuffed the mailing envelope with whatever was within reach. Still, being one of those people who reads whatever falls into her hands, I examined the brochure. It said that if a vehicle is equipped with one of those devices, the information collected can be shared directly to the insurance company in return for a discount. That stunned me into verbosity. (Hence this bloggerie.) It seems unreal that people allow so much intrusion into their lives just to save a few dollars.

In-Drive is a device that records the number of miles a vehicle is driven, how the vehicle is driven, where the vehicle is driven. It also includes features such as automatically summoning assistance in case of emergency and receiving alerts about how a teenage dependent might be driving the vehicle.

OnStar is a service that offers emergency, security and hands-free calling services along with diagnostics reports and mileage records and other features.

Both these services seem as if they’d be helpful to drivers, but sending that information to an insurance company smacks of Big Brother. Sharing that information is optional now, but as such services become commonplace, chances are that insurances companies could compel drivers to have the information sent directly to them. (There must be a story in there somewhere. Maybe the murder of an insurance agent, and the villain needs to find a way to escape undetected? Maybe not. It sounds familiar, and anyway, Big Brother has been done to death — at least in fiction.)

If you are a safe driver (or rather, if the device decides you are a safe driver) you could potentially save 50%, but that’s only if you drive less than 500 miles a year, and even I, who drives but once or twice a week, puts on more miles than that. A more realistic mileage is about 8,500 miles per year. At that mileage, a safe driver could save 25%, while an average driver would save only 16%.

It makes me wonder how many people expect to get a “safe driver” rating only to find out they are an average or high-risk driver. (All drivers assume they are great drivers, but it only takes a few minutes on a busy road to see that most drivers overestimate their ability.)

Still, 16% could add up to a bit of a savings, but . . . (yep, there’s that “but” that always seems to show up in my blog posts) the OnStar service, for example, can cost almost $30.00 a month, which you’d have to take into consideration when figuring out your savings.

This wasn’t quite the humorous blog I intended, but truthfully, surveillance of any kind spooks me.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

One Response to “Driving with “Big Brother””

  1. Malene Says:

    Amen to that!

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