The Mercedes S Class boasts safety aspects such as the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) that serve to stabilise the vehicle when it is at risk of skidding and the Brake Assist Systems (BAS) that are able to reduce the stopping distance significantly in an emergency. There is also a Distronic system that not only warns the driver of a serious hazard but also proactively secures windows and tightens seatbelts. At night, the Night View Assist provides the driver with the ability to help identify obstacles in the dark at an early stage.
Having made a sizable investment in a reliable German car, it would be nice to think that you would receive dispensation when it comes to your insurance policy …
But the question is, do insurers take car safety into account when calculating your premium?
Most manufacturers consider car safety equipment such as anti-lock brakes, traction control, automatic seatbelt warnings and air bags to be additional extras. So is it worth pointing this out when shopping around for your car insurance in the hope of obtaining a discount?
We asked Nigel Bartram the Motor Underwriting Strategy Manager for Aviva whose role is to look at all the innovations in the motor industry and assess the risk/premium benefits.
“We will only consider safety technology when a car is launched and then, only those systems which come as standard and cannot be switched off. Although the Mercedes S Class has several safety features, each one can be switched on or off by the driver which defeats the object of offering lower premiums for safer cars.”
“We also track the claims history for each type of car and if it’s found that after its initial trials a certain model has higher or lower risk of being involved in an accident, then the premium can be adjusted accordingly.”
Volvo’s XC60 incorporates their “City Safety” system and comes as standard. At low speeds, it can detect possible collisions and prepares the brakes. If the driver does not take any action, the “City Safety” system takes over and brakes the car automatically. It is hoped that intelligent systems such as this, will reduce rear end shunts if they were fitted as standard in all makes of car. More importantly, claims for whiplash will also see a significant reduction. Innovations like this have endeared Volvo to several European insurers and it is anticipated that reductions of nearly 30% will be available from some providers.
If it is true then Volvo XC60 drivers will see lower premiums than other similar cars without such features — but it seems that the introduction of these features does not warrant a discount, only the proven track record over a period of time in real-life claims data processing.
With all this safety technology, will we all become too complacent behind the wheel?
Would the intelligent braking system be as efficient at picking up a 4-year-old child as it would be at picking up a Ford Mondeo? Maybe people shouldn’t get used to the idea that their car will brake on their behalf.
Quite often technology takes the blame from drivers for accidents which can generally be traced back to human error. When the first police report saying “but the car was supposed to brake for me!” appears then we are in trouble.