By David Burke, CBC News
Several insurance companies in Nova Scotia are offering a program that allows people to save up to 25 per cent on their car insurance, but few people are opting to take part, according to OTC insurance and the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
In order to apply for the discount, people have to volunteer to install what’s known as a telematics device in their car.
The small device is installed under a car’s steering wheel and records an individual’s driving habits for six months.
The device records things like driving distances, the time of day the car is driven, and sudden acceleration or braking, said Christine Gaudreau, the vice president of OTC insurance in Halifax.
At the end of the six months the device is turned over to the insurance company and it uses the data to determine if the user should get a discount on their insurance.
“We’ve been advertising quite heavily on the radio and seems like people are very leery about having this device in their vehicle for the insurance companies to look at,” said Gaudreau.
Depending on how well a person drives, the insurance company could give them up to a 25 per cent discount.
If a person drives badly, there’s no penalty and their rate will remain the same, said Gaudreau.
Despite all the advertising OTC has only had about 50 people sign up for the program.
“I think it’s probably more of a big brother situation, may be who knows?” said Gaudreau. “I’m not comfortable with it in my car.”
“But for some people that use their vehicle very little, it’s probably very beneficial to them.”
Telematics more popular in Ontario and Quebec
The Insurance Bureau of Canada is the national industry association representing Canada’s private, home, auto and business insurers.
It said Nova Scotia has been slow to adopt telematics compared with other parts of the country.
“Well there is a bit of a slow uptake from what we’re hearing so far in Nova Scotia. But that’s not abnormal for any new technology especially when it’s related to a product like auto insurance,” said Amanda Dean, vice president Atlantic with the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Dean said she doesn’t have exact numbers breaking down how many people are using telematics across the country.
She said due to the privacy concerns involved with telematics, most companies have not released any figures detailing how many consumers are using the technology. But she said the insurance bureau is seeing definite trends.
“Well it’s existed in other parts of the country for some time and that was in response to consumer demand in those parts of the country. So there’s a bit more uptake let’s say in Quebec or Ontario for example,” said Dean.
She said on average insurance premiums are lower in Nova Scotia then they are in places like Ontario, and that can make people more willing to try telematics to get lower rates.
David Fraser is a privacy lawyer with McInnes Cooper in Halifax, he has mixed feelings about telematics.
“Once this information is generated, it exists and it can be used for other other purposes. It can be subpoenaed in connection for with a lawsuit, the police could get a search warrant and it just adds to the amount of digital debris that we leave behind in the run of the day,” said Fraser.
He also questions how accurate the information will be and how it will be interpreted.
But Fraser said the overall idea of charging people based on exactly on how they drive makes a lot of sense.
“If you are somebody who speeds regularly, who passes recklessly, who slams on the brakes or kind of spins his tires when he’s leaving as the light turns green, maybe that person should be recognized and have higher premiums,” said Fraser.
“But that’s part of a broader discussion we need to have.”