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New technology could lower insurance rates

There’s encouraging news coming from the auto insurance industry: Some of the new technology designed to help avoid crashes appears to be working.

On top of that, the news should eventually lead to lower insurance rates.

The crash-avoidance features automatically activate or alert drivers when they’re at risk of crashing.

“Our new study shows that some of these features are, in fact, preventing crashes,” said David Zuby of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Forward collision avoidance systems that take over and hit the brakes before you crash show some of the biggest crash reduction successes.

Early studies credit adaptive headlights, which automatically shift direction while going around corners, have also shown a significant drop in nighttime crashes.

“The interesting thing is that only a small proportion of all crashes involved multiple vehicles at night on curvy roads, so it’s a little bit surprising that we’re seeing such a large effect in the insurance data,” Zuby said.

Fewer crashes mean fewer damage claims, and that could end up leading to insurance discounts for drivers who use the new technology. But that’s not going to happen right away.

“As these new safety technologies prove themselves effective over time, the reduced claims will be reflected in lower rates. But companies have to statistically demonstrate longer-term reduction in claims,” said Karl Newman of the Northwest Insurance Council.

At least one research company — Celent — predicts lower rates in the five years. That company projects a nine percent drop in premiums between 2013 and 2017. The company says the premiums could drop up to 26 percent between 2018 and 2023.

But don’t expect a discount for all crash-avoidance systems. Surprisingly, the study finds lane departure waning were actually associated with increased collision claims.

Insurance regulators want justification for rate reductions like they do for rate increases, so companies have to prove the technology makes a long-term difference.

According to a new study, blind spot detection systems and park assist technology also failed to show any significant reductions in crash patterns.