Auto Insurance

Drivers who speed are the biggest insurance risks by a mile, study finds

By: Lisa Coxon on August 29, 2019

A University of Waterloo study has revealed that speeding is more likely to cause a vehicle to crash than any other form of dangerous driving, such as hard braking, hard acceleration, or hard cornering.

Looking for potential links between these four dangerous driving behaviours, researchers sifted through 28 million trips that were recorded by insurance companies in Ontario and Texas whose clients used telematics devices in their vehicles. They found that speeding emerged as “a strong predictor of crashes,” while the other four behaviours didn’t even register as statistically significant.

Researchers compared data from 28 actual crashes with 20 control vehicles that hadn’t been in collisions, but that featured similar characteristics, like driving distance and geographic location. When researchers used a “sophisticated penalty system” to compare the four kinds of bad driving, speed was the key difference between them.

These findings could have a significant impact on the world of auto insurance.

“For insurance companies using this telematics data to assess who is a good risk and who isn’t, our suggestion based on the data is to look at speed, at people driving too fast,” Stefan Steiner, a statistics professor in Waterloo's Faculty of Mathematics, said in a release.

The researchers believe their findings could have revolutionary effects on how drivers’ insurance premiums are determined. Instead of age, gender and postal code (i.e. does the driver live in an area with a high number of claims?), insurance companies could theoretically provide more personalized premiums that are based on actual driving behaviour, since they can now prove statistically that speed is a strong predictor of crashes and, therefore, that drivers who speed are higher risks to insure.

“Some of the results are no surprise, but prior to this we had a whole industry based on intuition,” Allaa (Ella) Hilal, an adjunct professor of electrical and computer engineering, said in a release. “Now it is formulated - we know aggressive driving has an impact.”

“Having this information exposed and understood allows people to wrap their minds around their true risks and improve their driving behaviours. We are super pumped about its potential.”