Big Brother car insurance is coming

Don't Waste Your Money

How would you like a 20-30 percent discount on your car insurance? Sure you would, and so would I.

But now the tougher question: To get it, are you willing to let your insurance company monitor your driving?

Progressive now offers a program called "Snapshot," that can lower your rate up to 30 percent. Allstate and State Farm have similar programs.

There's one catch with all of them: You have to let your insurer install a gadget in your car to monitor your driving.

One Driver Likes it

Kathleen Hulefeld signed up for Snapshot with her Ford Fusion.

"I liked it because it made you aware of certain patterns of your driving," she said.

She's naturally a defensive driver, but says it still took a while to get used to having Big Brother watching her.

"At first I was worried about it, my husband was not, but I was concerned about them tracking me," she said.

We Test it Out

So what is it like having your driving monitored?  

Progressive sent us a Snapshot to try out in a news car for two weeks.

It installed easily into our Escape's diagnostic port.

But I soon learned any sort of hard stop triggers a warning beep. Every hard stop is recorded, and posted on Progressive's website for you to see when you log in.

Progressive spokesman Richard Hutchinson said there is no reason to worry: Your rates cannot go up if you drive too aggressively.

He says your rates will go down as much as 30 percent if Snapshot finds you:

    - Drive the speed limit.
    - Avoid hard stops.
    - Don't drive late at night, when most accidents happen.

Hutchinson said "the majority of drivers get a discount, and the discount averages 10 percent."

But some critics in online reviews worry it could encourage drivers running red light, to avoid having a "hard stop" recorded. Progressive says that has not been a problem in its experience.

Others worry Progressive could track everywhere you go, but the company says that's not so. "It does not have GPS, so we don't know where you are, it is not tracking your location," Hutchinson insisted.

For Kathleen, a savings of close to $100 a year was worth the privacy tradeoff.

"Since we started the program a year ago," she said, "we received the discount, and on renewal received the discount again."

As for our news car, it earned no discount in two weeks, due to hard braking. But don't look at me: I'm not the only one who drives this thing.

The Bottom Line

Bottom line: These programs are strictly optional, for now and the near future. And they will not raise your rates for hard stopping and acceleration, again, at least not for now.

So if you don't want anyone monitoring any aspect of your driving, all you have to do is say "no thanks."

As always, don't waste your money.
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