Texting for an insurance premium hike

AA Insurance welcomes potentially life-saving police ‘spy truck’ initiative

AA Insurance welcomes potentially life-saving police ‘spy truck’ initiative

AA Insurance welcomes potentially life-saving police ‘spy truck’ initiative

A police ‘spy from the cab’ campaign using unmarked heavy goods vehicles1 to target drivers making calls or texting from handheld phones could lead not just to fines but big increases in car insurance premiums for offenders.

Some insurers could even decline to renew cover for those who are caught.

Trials in 2014 with unmarked police lorries caught hundreds of car and truck drivers texting, phoning or committing other offences while they were driving – offences that might not have been spotted by officers in a car.

The high viewpoint from a lorry cab allows officers to gather evidence using a video camera.  They then radio to a supporting officer on a motorcycle or in a car to pull the errant driver over.

While drivers may mistakenly exceed a speed limit, no-one uses a handheld phone by mistake. It’s a deliberate act that diverts attention from driving, significantly heightening the risk of a crash

Janet Connor, managing director of AA Insurance

Potential to save lives

Pointing out that insurance companies take mobile phone offences extremely seriously, Janet Connor, managing director of AA Insurance, says that she welcomes this initiative because of its potential to save lives.

“Drivers using a handheld mobile phone are at four times greater risk of having a crash.  And although a CU80 offence for using a hand-held mobile phone commands only the same fixed penalty as an SP30 speeding offence (three points and a £100 fine), it could add another £100 to your annual premium as well.

“While drivers may mistakenly exceed a speed limit, no-one uses a handheld phone by mistake.  It’s a deliberate act that diverts attention from driving, significantly heightening the risk of a crash."

Escalated

Depending on the circumstances the offence could be escalated to careless or even dangerous driving, which risks disqualification as well as a heavy fine.

Penalised

A few insurance companies may overlook a first speeding offence and most also overlook those who opt to take a speed awareness course instead of a fine and licence endorsement.  But the AA believes that the majority, if not all, insurers will penalise those who commit a mobile phone offence or collect a second speeding ticket, possibly not renewing cover when it comes up for renewal.

More likely to make a claim

Those who have a single speeding conviction are up to 30% more likely to make an accident claim than those who have a clean licence.

Someone who has two speeding offences is up to 60% more likely to be involved in a collision. 

A driver caught for crossing a red traffic signal is around 40% more likely to make a claim2. But it’s estimated that someone committing a mobile phone offence is four times more likely to be involved in a crash3.

Distracted, near miss or a crash

Last year, AA-Populus research revealed that 23% of over 19,000 AA members admitted that they had: ‘been distracted, had a near miss or a crash in the past 12 months’ while using or interacting in some way with mobile phone or other mobile device4.

In separate polls, 17% said they thought mobile phones were the biggest road safety issue facing road users while 31% said that using a mobile phone was the ‘most irritating behaviour of other drivers’.

These are shocking admissions that underline the widespread use of and danger posed by phones.  If a driver is texting, or calling with a handheld phone, they aren’t concentrating.

Hands free

Drivers also even admit that hands-free phones can be a distraction4 and, in the event of a crash, police can take their use into account.

Ring off immediately

Ms Connor also urges that those making a call to someone who is clearly answering while driving should ring off immediately.  “It could save someone’s life,” she points out.

AA Advice on mobile phone use

Using a phone in a car

  • Don't use a mobile phone held in the hand while driving or while stopped with the engine switched on – it is illegal.
  • Stop and switch off the engine to make or take a call or text message, or leave it to go to voicemail – even if you have a hands-free phone.
  • If you must talk and are using a hands-free phone, keep conversations short and simple or say that you will find a safe and legal place to stop and phone back.     

Calling someone's mobile

If you call someone and think that they might be driving, ask them:

  • ‘Are you driving?’
  • ‘Are you hands-free? Is it safe to talk?’

If the person taking the call is obviously driving and trying to continue the conversation it’s OK to say:

  • ‘I’ll call you back later’ or: ‘Call me when you have stopped’ and ring off

(1)  Police will start using unmarked heavy goods vehicles on motorways and some A-roads from spring 2015 (Source: Daily Mail)

(2)  Source: AA actuarial data

(3)  Source: RoSPA, ‘Driving for Work’ report, June 2011

(4) AA-Populus interviewed 19,028 AA members in an online poll between 10-19 June 2014.  In response to the question: “Have you been distracted, had a near miss or a crash within the past 12 months by any of the following while driving… “Using a hands free mobile phone” – 7%; “Using a hand-held mobile phone” – 5%; “Composing/sending a text message” – 5%; “Interacting with phone or other device using voice command” – 4%; “Checking social media updates” – 1%; “Composing/sending an email” – 1%. 

In a poll among 16.606 AA members between 15-24 July 2014, 31% cited “mobile phone use” in response to the question “Which of the following do you think is the biggest road safety issue facing road users in the UK?”

In a poll among 17,874 AA members between 16-24 September 2014, 31% answered “talking on a mobile phone” in response to the question “Which behaviour of other drivers irritates you most when you are driving?”

Populus is a founder member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

18 February 2015