The Mysterious Black Box
I was once told you don’t need to purchase motor insurance if you have a very healthy bank balance and can afford to have your arsed sued off in the case of an accident and a third party claim against you. Whether this is true or not I have no idea (and the internet is down here at the moment so Googling is not an option) as for the vast majority of us that is a non-starter of a plan so we have to purchase varying degrees of insurance cover if we wish to be mobile on the kingdom’s roads. However, the playing field of motor insurance is far from a level one with each of us being asked to pay different premiums for the same product depending on such factors as past driving experience, age, marital status, location, gender, hair colour and possibly the ‘Halo Effect’ which I have covered elsewhere. Surely none of us consider this state of affairs fair and if we add in that prices for insurance never go down year on year, due to us being penalised for some fantastical reason or other, and that some sections of society get the shaft more than others it reeks higher than a wheelie bin on a summer afternoon.
For a while now the yoot of the nation have been getting shafted big time by the bullies of the motor insurance industry making them pay through the nose, ears and the rest of their faces to allow them to legally drive on the road. This cannot be based on a past record for the first time driver because there isn’t one so instead they are deemed to be accident prone, speed freak cretins of the first order, en masse, by the number crunchers in grey suits for no arguable reason. I know from experience of one young man who paid five times more in insurance than he did for the, far from boy-racer, car he proudly bought with his own hard earned. What was more insidious was the fact had he not opted for the fitting of a ‘black box’ it would have been ten times the value of his wheels. Ten times! That cannot be right in any sphere of mathematics or risk assessment statistics this side of string theory.
This innocuous ‘black box’ is pushed as a safety aid and is purely beneficially for the driver and his wellbeing…financial wellbeing aside. In truth, however, it is little more than a spy (The name’s Box, Black Box), its sole purpose to report on your driving and make sure the car does not, for example, exceed any mileage limitations placed upon the driver by clauses in the policy of its masters. You break the speed limit, it grasses; you brake a little too sharply, it grasses; you go where you shouldn’t, it grasses; you travel too far, it grasses; you drive during the wrong hours of the day, it grasses. It is suggested that if you comply fully to the demands of the John Le Carre creation under your dashboard you will be rewarded with monetary refunds from the insurance company, whether that has ever happened to anyone…ever is beyond my sphere of experience.
The trouble is these lumps of technology, like many others, are not 100% reliable and there are several comments stating this online should you wish to question my word. I know for a fact one report of sharp acceleration (which is not illegal as far as I’m aware) was sent to the Black Box’s HQ when the car was indisputably stationary at the time of the supposed incident. There are examples of cars being tracked quite considerable distances from where it actually was at the time, maybe the boxes can’t tell the difference between Warrington and Warwickshire…I know I can’t. Even with these known faults the black boxes are still being hoisted upon younger drivers (there really is no choice considering the premium that has to be paid for not having one fitted) and – I can’t believe I’m saying this because I hate young people – it is far from fair. Innocent until proved guilty has always been the chant to show how equitable our society is and yet this situation is the complete opposite. It has become acceptable to penalise untested drivers under the assumption that they are all reckless, feckless liabilities. If that was true how did people with the exact same chances and who were exactly the same age as me get into Oxford and Cambridge whereas I barely managed to dribble my way through school exams? I’ll tell you how, it was because they were more mature than me and applied themselves to the task in hand with effort and diligence. Isn’t it possible they would be safer, more courteous drivers than me too? They wouldn’t, obviously, I know I am in the top 2% of brilliant drivers but to lump everyone together and smear us all with the same demeaning brush is wrong.
Lately, this invasion into our vehicular space and the enforced, over-priced insurance we have to pay to access the road links has taken an even more invasive turn and, the suckers that we are, we’re lapping it up like a Twitter Storm…if that’s a thing. At least one insurance company is pushing a fun-filled driving app you can use to assess your driving abilities which could possibly lead to lower insurance premiums or refunds. Sounds good doesn’t it, who wouldn’t want to save money? Except, see that wedge over there, the metaphoric one, it’s the thin end of that. They push this new tech like it’s a game, compete with family members and friends to see who gets the best score and bragging rights to being the new James Hunt…probably without taking into account the legendary drinking, smoking or womanising but I don’t have the app so I could be wrong on that. Bollocks to that, I say, big, hairy, swollen bollocks to that.
Because we are for the most part sheep, and tight-fisted sheep to boot, there will come a time when the majority of drivers will be taking advantage of these helpful apps and then it won’t be long before it is deemed advisory by the Department of Transport and then you’ll blink and it will be a legal requirement. Don’t believe me? Just ask any HGV driver about the ‘Tachograph’ system, or the ‘spy-in-the-cab’ as it’s known. It’s not a big leap from commercial to private transport over-regulation in anyone’s imagination. Then…oh then, the black box will come into its own. No longer the carefree cousin of Space Invaders, it will be a relentless stoolpigeon snitching at every white line crossed and each fraction of a mph over the limit you’re travelling. Gone will be the rewards and in will march the penalties, resplendent in jack boots and iron crosses. Fines imposed by the insurance companies will automatically be taken from your bank account and once a certain level of misdemeanours is reached, your insurance will be deemed to be invalid and you and your vehicle will be illegally present on the road…wherever and whenever. It will probably tip off the coppers too and send your GPS location to them and the vehicular crushing firm your wheels will soon belong to. It will also be linked to the DVLA and speeding fines and the required points on your licence will be issued in real-time because you’re doing 25 in a 20 zone that until this very morning had been a 30 zone. A trip to and from your place of work could see you lose your licence…and very, very light of pocket.
I’m not sure what we can do about the black boxes being fitted to the new and young drivers’ cars because that already seems acceptably embedded like a tick and is going to be hard to shift. The voluntary signing up for an app is a different matter, that we can rally against and it’s so simple…don’t get one. I know you see the short-term benefit of saving a few quid because you didn’t break the speed limit for a month but I am pretty certain, judging by life experience, however well you drive this year, next year you’ll be paying more for insurance. This is usually justified with the excuse that we’re paying for the recklessness and mistakes of other drivers…that will never seem fair in itself. I believe there is a similar system in place for Council Tax dodgers, they swerve the tax so you get to pay more on their behalf…a faultless train of thought if ever there was one.
Insurance companies are some of the richest institutions on the planet let’s not help them to get even richer still by voluntarily accepting a system that doesn’t work as it should today and tomorrow will be hell-bent on pricing you off the road or to take every last penny it can wring from you by any means possible. Be like Zammo and the kids from Grange Hill and ‘Just Say No!’
Addendum: I just had another thought, a lot of the black boxes that are fitted remain in place even when they are deactivated as I believe it can incur a cost to have them removed so why would you bother? But are they deactivated? Is there a fleet of cars with black boxes merely in sleeper mode and what information are they sending and to whom? If you find yourself buying a car, especially off a pimply bastard wearing the latest fashion, it might be wise to ask the question: ‘Is there a black box fitted to this car or is it William Wallace?’