Sudbury·Audio

Insurance companies use black box technology to track driving habits

Car insurance companies want to record and reward you for good driving habits if you let them put a small tracking device in your car.

If you're a safe driver, it's going to help you out. If you're not, it could hurt you.

Ontario car insurance companies are now offering to install a black box recording device in your car. It records your driving habits, such as how frequently you drive and how fast you speed or brake. If you have good driving habits, you get a discount on your annual insurance payment. (Robert Crum/Shutterstock)

Car insurance companies want to record and reward you for good driving habits if you let them put a small tracking device in your car. 

But what happens if they record your bad driving habits too?

The black box installed by your insurance company tracks your car's speed, how hard you brake, and where you drive.

And if you're a good driver, you'll get a reduction on your premium — up to 25 per cent.

The device is voluntary.

"The data that's collected is only ever used to discount your rate," said CAA spokesperson Amy Orfanakos.

"If we pull the data and see you speed, we never penalize you."

Car consumer expert Phil Edmonston said insurance is often based on gender and age, especially in Ontario.

He welcomes the change.
Phil Edmonston, an automobile consumer advocate, says auto black boxes have been around in North America for about 10 years and, so far, he hasn't seen anything too negative about them.

"I think this is just using technology to make sure that they find out if you're a good or bad driver — based upon how you're driving, not who they think you are," he said.

"If you have nothing that you really have to hide or you don't want other people to know,  it is a fairer system that's based upon your actual usage of the vehicle rather than your occupation, your gender."

But Edmonston warned black boxes could be used against you.

People have gone to jail based on info collected in monitoring systems already installed in cars by the manufacturer, he noted.

And insurance companies are required to hand over their black box information if asked by the courts, Orfankos said.

The recorder has been accepted in court as proof in impaired driving cases, whether a driver applied a car's breaks, or if his or her seatbelt was fastened. It could also verify if someone was at a particular place at a particular time.

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