Friday, June 6, 2008

More subsidies for driving

This time, safe drivers are subsidizing high-risk drivers. Auto insurance-providing Arbella Insurance Group is suing the Massachusetts insurance commissioner over the new managed-competition rules, specifically the one that allow companies that begin to sell insurance to the Commonwealth's to avoid issuing high-risk policies for two years.
Arbella claims that this puts incumbent providers at a disadvantage. Issuing high-risk policies adds as much as $150 to safe driver policies, it says.

That's outrageous. Forget about the inequity between incumbent insurance providers and newcomers. What about the inequity between high- and low-risk drivers? If Arbella's claims are true, insurance companies are forced to cover high-risk drivers at a loss on each high-risk driver. In order to make a profit overall, insurance companies raise rates on low-risk drivers.

In other words, low-risk drivers subsidize high-risk drivers.

One might reasonably ask why a pedestrian and bicycle advocate cares about the distribution of insurance costs among car drivers. Three reasons:

  1. I live in Newton, not New York City. I am also a driver. (A very safe driver, in fact.)
  2. I don't have access to numbers right now, but I supect high-risk drivers are also more likely to be involved in crashes that involve pedestrian and cyclists.
  3. We need to get to a system where private automobile travel is not subsidized, where each driver pays his or her fair share of all the costs related to his or her travel.
We should only subsidize behaviors that accrue to the common good. There is nothing but private benefit to private automobile travel. And plenty of public harm.

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