There’s a phrase that keeps repeating itself in my head as I write: “freedom of the road”. I suspect it has been lodged there for many a year — quite possibly since my first reading of the tale of Mr Toad in 'The Wind in the Willows'.
Over the years it has come to stand for something we all hold very dear: the ability to get into a car of my choice at any time, and drive it wherever I want.
So I’m bothered by two burning questions: will this precious freedom be threatened if I consent to have a 'black box' driving monitor fitted to my car (tracking speed, acceleration, position and time) for the purpose of lowering my insurance premium. And does the personal confidentiality I’m keeping matter very much?
The practice of electronically gathering driving information is already common for younger drivers. The telematics company Ingenie reckons if a new driver consents to fitment of a box, his or her insurance premium can be halved to a just-about-affordable £1700 a year, provided of course his/her driving (as monitored) is shown to be reasonably safe. And there’s an argument that says the monitoring system also assists with the safety of younger drivers, far more prone to serious crashes than the rest of us. It looks like a no-brainer
But should I consent to the black box, and should you? Even for the 'mature' drivers with good insurance records, premums are high. I used to pay an eye-watering £1200 to insure the Ariel Atom I recently sold — which might have fallen to £750 if I had consented and monitored. That’s £450 a year for giving up some information that doesn’t strike me as very important. And yielding it might just contribute to some research findings which could make things better for all of us.
On balance, I think I’d go with it. I’d back myself to drive well enough not to upset the black box, and I fundamentally don’t care who knows where I am at what time. After all, I’m already carrying a mobile phone, another black box that can yield up this info and more. And as the RAC says, if I do come to grief they’ll instantly know where I am to effect a rescue. Best of all, those freedoms of the road I started with aren’t affected at all. I can still drive whatever car I choose and go wherever I want to go.