January 1, 2010

The Genetic Connection Between Bad Driving & Costlier Auto Insurance

It should come as no surprise that dangerous drivers pay more for auto insurance. After all, the entire insurance industry is set up to charge drivers more or less based on their level of driving risk. What might surprise some policyholders, however, is the fact that genetics might have something to do with their bad driving habits.

A study recently reported in the journal Cerebral Cortex’ noted that about a third of all drivers are missing a gene that allows them to develop a working memory while performing repetitive tasks – like driving a set course. Drivers missing this gene therefore have a minimized sense of direction. This results in them paying less attention to the road, a higher risk to be in an accident and a potentially higher auto insurance rate. Genetics can also impact a driver’s ability to react and think quickly to avoid an accident. Some have even suggested that the tendency to drive while stressed out or emotional may be genetic, meaning that ‘road rage’ might not be in the control of some drivers. In a broad way, genetics effects everything that humans do, down to driving, but discovering specific missing or malfunctioning genes that lead to bad driving habits could have strange implications for insurers and policy holders.

Don’t expect your insurer to ask you for a genetics test the next time you look for an auto insurance quote, however. While genetic studies are interesting, they’re not a determinant used by any insurer. In fact, genetics might actually be an illegal consideration for insurance companies to use according to some federal and state guidelines. And, even if genes were easy to read, they wouldn’t provide as much information for an insurance agent as a driver’s record and the various statistics that car insurance companies currently use when determining coverage and rates. If they were, auto insurance companies would ask for a family history, as this would be a fine way to determine whether someone was genetically predisposed to driving poorly.

The tried and true methods that insurers use are always adapting as new statistics become available, but rates are still essentially based on a driver’s record. Drivers can avoid high car insurance premiums by simply driving well, using comparison websites when looking for new quotes, and by following insurance agents’ instructions to decrease the risk that they pose to insurers – such as taking defensive driving courses and driving safer vehicles.

Genetics may factor into car insurance some day, but for the lowest rates, the best approach is to simply take an active approach to driving carefully–even if this tactic goes against your genes.