Are insurers invading your family life? Diligent technology now snitches on drivers aged under-25 to their parents if they drive badly
Parents have become the ultimate back-seat drivers thanks to in-car gadgets that alert Mum and Dad if their adult son or daughter is driving badly.
Under-25s can install vigilant “black box” technology that not only tracks their every move behind the wheel, but texts their parents if it thinks they have broken the speed limit, or are braking too quickly, for example.
Critics say the technology risks infantilising young people, but the reality is that parents are now more involved than ever in their children’s finances , sometimes well into their 20s, by helping to fund basics like rent or a mortgage deposit.
While half of the population think that individuals should be able to support themselves financially by age 23 , 3.3 million, or 26pc, of 20 to 34-year-olds are still living at home, according to the Office for National Statistics.
“It’s an invasion of privacy that many mature drivers would not welcome,” said James Daley, consumer campaigner, of lobby group Fairer Finance. “Informing parents of driving habits should stop after age 18.”
The in-car snitch has proven to curb bad habits common among younger drivers, firms say. A driver aged 25 or under is twice as likely to make a claim than drivers aged 61 and above, official claims data shows.
Accidents involving younger drivers also tend to be more severe, according to information from the Association of British Insurers. The average claim made by an 18 to 20-year-old driver costs £889, compared with just £443 for a driver aged between 26 and 30.
HOW IT WORKS
Parents can pinpoint the very roundabout, road or junction, via Google Maps, where an incident of bad driving took place, if the driver has a smartphone app switched on while driving. Otherwise, the parents will receive a notification that an incidence of bad driving took place.
Insurers insist that the technology works because parents, who often pay money to fund their child’s car, as a result have more influence over their child’s driving habits than the insurer.
The insurer will also contact the driver to tell them about their driving, but firms say this is not always effective.
“We contact parents, as well as phone call, text and update a driver’s online account if they don’t drive safely,” said Crispin Moger of Marmalade, a specialist in young driver insurance.
“We involve parents as we don’t want young drivers to ignore messages we send them, although we can withdraw the policy if they keep driving badly,” Mr Moger said. Other insurers involve Mum and Dad only if they have bought the policy. “It offers reassurance to parents who can 'see’ their children when they are out on the road and otherwise on their own,” said Steve Kerrigan of The Co-op Insurance.
Since launching its young driver “telematics” system four years ago, Co-op has caught around 1,500 young drivers speeding “excessively” above the limit. Almost 98pc of customers have escaped receiving any alerts for bad driving, the firm said.
Drivers could be faced with a £750 premium hike if they refuse to install 'black box' technology
However, the technology is not always 100pc accurate. Mr Daley said: “It’s possible to get a poor driving score on a telematics device, but still drive responsibly, and all drivers should have the choice as to whether they wish to subject themselves to the constant scrutiny that telematics devices provide.”
A car-sharing driver may also be penalised for another’s poor driving, as the black box doesn’t distinguish between drivers on the same policy.
More Than, which offers a “Smart Wheels” black box, advises young people that they “should ensure that any additional people on their policy are aware of this and drive safely to avoid their policy being impacted.”
The telematics offered by Marmalade updates every 30 seconds, but the technology will soon provide second-by-second updates on a person’s driving.