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Los Angeles Safest Driver Contest Could Reduce Personal Injury Claims

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Los Angeles safest driver contest

Deborra Sarei, 46, a resident of Downey, California has been named the first-ever Safest Driver in Los Angeles as part of a new contest intended to reduce car accidents and fatalities that included a $20,000 award. Over 11,000 entrants, whose daily commute demands navigating roads and highways in and around the city of Los Angeles, entered the contest which was promoted by Mayor Eric Garcetti and sponsored by financial services company, USAA. But there could only be one winner. 

Over the course of a two-month challenge, drivers allowed a mobile app spy of sorts to track their every move behind the wheel. According to the New York Times, the app monitored every moment of driving, gathering data related to phone distraction, speed, braking, acceleration, and cornering. In essence, the app was akin to having a virtual driver’s training instructor critiquing your driving skills from the time you turned on the ignition to the time your route concluded by placing the vehicle in park. 

Sarei proved to be the most qualified candidate to take on the challenge. But it wasn’t necessarily a breeze, despite her history of being a remarkably safe driver. She described her experience to the New York Times earlier in the month, noting that she had to “recalibrate her driving habits” to adapt to the challenge. 

Sarei described to the Times instances where driving “safer” actually resulted in her encountering difficulties on some of Los Angeles’s busiest freeways. 

“There were moments on the freeway where people would literally cut you off to go to the next lane,” Sarei told The Times. “It was hard to prevent causing an accident because you had to brake and then accelerate to get out of the situation.”

According to Sarei, despite the inconveniences, she maintained a conscious effort each time she was behind the wheel to never exceed posted speed limits. Part of her commute included dropping her daughter off at school each morning by taking Interstate 105 to the 605 to Lakewood. Given the extra time she would be required to spend on the road while always traveling under the speed limit, Sarei incorporated a modified schedule that included departing a minimum of ten minutes early each morning. And she made sure her daughter was aware of the new schedule, with tardiness not being an option. 

Nevertheless, as many may not realize (with each of us, if we’re being honest, tending to exceed posted speed limits on a regular basis), Sarei described some of the inherent challenges in driving safely (which often meant slowly), to the Times.

“When we were in the slow lane, we’d be going at a certain speed limit and people would be whizzing by us,” said Sarei. “We started saying, ‘Well, you’re not going to be LA’s safest driver.’”

Despite the challenges and the contest requiring her to adapt her driving tendencies, Sarei emerged victorious over her 11,500 competitors. She now holds the title of the first-ever ‘LA’s Safest Driver.’ 

The Safest Driver Contest, and the skills demonstrated by Sarei, serve as an effort to curb the large number of California traffic accidents, many of which lead to serious injuries and fatalities. It’s a move that will undoubtedly affect the personal injury arena, encouraging drivers to maintain safe driving habits, thus reducing the number of personal injury claims in the state of California each year. And the statistics concerning said accidents are quit alarming.

According to the firm, Megerdichian Law, located in Glendale, CA, in 2017 there were a reported 485,866 car crashes in California. 3,898 of those accidents resulted in deaths, while 276,823 resulted in injuries. 

Additionally, Megerdichian Law has presented statistics that include:

  • California car accidents have increased 23.5% since 2013. 
  • The state’s most dangerous counties for car accidents (injuries an fatalities combined), include:  
    • 1) Los Angeles, with 91,468
    • 2) Orange, with 23,103
    • 3) San Diego, with 21,534
    • 4) San Bernardino, with 16,263
    • 5) Riverside, with 15,551

USAA has publicly deemed the contest an overall success, particularly given that it was the first year conducting such a quasi-experiment, with many variables that could not have been predicted in advance given the unique nature of the contest. USAA contends that, upon conclusion of the contest, phone distraction among all competitors improved by 26%, and the speeding scores of the drivers improved by 30%.

Perhaps the moral of the story is, if you are indeed a savvy and cautious enough Los Angeles driver who can successfully manage to not break a single traffic law while under constant app surveillance, you truly deserve an award — and a $20,000 award at that. 

With that in mind, what does the future hold for cars equipped with such app technology, and the affect it could have on drivers’ insurance premiums?

The New York Times article sought out the expertise of Jennifer King, director of consumer privacy at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society. King indicated, “It’s not hard to imagine usage-based technology one day becoming a standard method for setting most insurance premiums.”

In the near-future, should such app technology become a standard feature within new vehicles, drivers might have to reconcile with the fact that even the most insignificant of driving transgressions (the New York Times cited examples such as pulling in too quickly to snag a parking spot, or rerouting Google Maps) could result in an increase in their insurance rates. In other words, whether or not you’re involved in an accident in the future may become the least of your worries as a driver. Rather, by being constantly monitored through the app, you’ll be subject to rate increases for mere mistakes (which, we can all agree, can be something of a norm if you’re a regular Los Angeles area driver).

“There’s been a market for at least a decade of installing devices in teenagers’ cars to track what they do to force them to drive more safely,” King said to The Times. “Why wouldn’t insurance companies want to do that for everybody?”

Some may view the future of monitored driving via technology as somewhat Orwellian. But the intent is obviously to reduce accidents and ultimately injuries and fatalities (which would be a major factor in the world of personal injury law).