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Reality about auto-rate proposal

September 04, 2008

Re "Pay-as-you-drive time," editorial, Aug. 29

You can't be serious. This measure would primarily penalize those businesses and people who have to drive a lot. And it would not save the rest of us as much as we would be entitled to because the insurance companies are not going to give up in profit what this prime risk factor would actually be worth. This measure is about as realistic as a temporary sales tax actually ending.

The social benefits? I live in the north San Fernando Valley and work in West L.A. My mortgage payment wouldn't get me a two-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica. And with the price of gas, it's not like I jump in the car to go for a Sunday drive. My driving is primarily limited to necessities such as going to work.

And what would evolve from this measure? The insurance companies would start tracking what speed you drive, how hard you hit the brakes, how many lane changes you make, what areas you drive to and so on.

You're kidding yourselves if you think everybody comes out a winner.

Larry Keffer

Granada Hills

Paying lower premiums for driving less is a great idea. But it's not new to the insurance commissioner or to economists. California voters thought of it 20 years ago, when we passed Proposition 103 and required that auto insurers base premiums on our driving record and the number of miles people drive.

California is the only state where how far you drive is a mandatory part of your insurance rate. But insurance companies have always preferred to base prices on ZIP Codes and marital status, so they fought Proposition 103's driver-safety and mileage requirements. Only recently did former Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi order them to start following the law.

Now, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner is looking to make sure companies can verify our mileage so they accurately base rates on how much we drive. He also promises to protect our privacy from insurers that like the idea of using a GPS device to track miles driven. The test will be if insurers actually lower premiums for people who cut their driving, or just use mileage verification as an excuse to get into our cars.

Carmen Balber

Santa Monica

The writer is a consumer advocate for Consumer Watchdog.

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