Industry urged to offer auto insurance discounts for installing smartphone-blocking devices

Published: December 14, 2017

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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Smart phone and cellphone device use behind the wheel is among the most frequent causes of collision in Canada and makes up nearly 95% of all distracted driving cases. Drivers who use smartphone blocking applications on their devices should be given a discount on their auto insurance rates, some insurance groups argue.

Devices such as telematics units and dedicated applications can either monitor smartphone use or block use entirely. This prevents drivers from being distracted and could prevent collisions.

“If you could take that concept and apply it … to apps that block your phone while the car is in motion, then perhaps [a discount on premiums] could apply if you have agreed to use that app on your phone,” Eric Smith, vice president of regulatory affairs at the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, said in an interview with Canadian Underwriter.

Currently, the insurance industry is waiting to see how such technology works, how is adopted, and if it impacts driver behavior.

Some apps “are able to detect when you are driving and essentially have the phone so it does not give you any notifications or it does not give a signal to you that there is an incoming call, or it does not allow you to text, or basically allow you to use the phone,” Smith explains.

However, there are potential roadblocks in the technology. For example, the Federal Radiocommunication Act prevents the installation, use, and possession of jamming technology in Canada. These are devices that are designed to obstruct radiocommunication. Blocking a smartphone signal in a vehicle could impact its ability to make emergency calls.

That said, most apps launching understand this restriction and allow emergency calls to be made during driving. In July, Shop Insurance Canada spoke with the developer of the RoadBudee, a software and hardware combination that prevents smartphone use while the vehicle is in operation.