Freeze column: Driving safely should pay off

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2011

By David Freeze
For the Salisbury Post
Driving safely for years should pay off
A few days ago, I was rushing from one meeting to another.
I was already late for the second meeting, and was on my cell phone at the same time. In a hurry while driving west on Brenner Avenue, I saw an opportunity to cut the corner just a little bit as I turned onto Merritt.
When I first looked, there was not a car in the intersection but that soon changed. I had made my commitment to turn a little short, while keeping my conversation going on the phone.
A gray car then pulled into the intersection and quickly blew the horn at me, so I swerved over to make it past the car. Now I was more frustrated, but soon realized how dumb it was to make such an unsafe movement. Turns out the car was driven by my cousin, Troy Anne Donahue, who was on the way back from a business luncheon.
So not only was I frustrated and hurried, but embarrassed. I will admit to being a distracted driver sometimes, but have made a promise to myself to improve on that. There could have been an accident, and it would have been my fault.
One other bad habit is my regular effort to look at the vehicles around me to see the drivers and what they are doing. People are doing the usual assortment of strange things, like applying makeup and even once in a while reading something. By far the leading activity is something to do with cell phones. Not that I can say a lot, but by looking down and dialing, reading, or texting, concentration definitely wavers. My promise is to do much better. Maybe this column will cause a few others to think the same way.
I recently became aware of the North Carolina Safe Driver Tax or Clean Risk Surcharge. First to admit that I had a few accidents and tickets in my early driving years, there have been no tickets in the past 25 years. While very thankful of that fact, I hope it won’t be bad luck to mention it here. My renewed effort at concentration and focus should help.
Those ticket-free years should carry a lot of benefits, and the last thing I expected was to be taxed for having a good driving record. Too many North Carolina are doing just that.
North Carolina Senate Bill 477 and House Bill 834 are currently proposed to do away with the Clean Risk Surcharge. Did you know that safe drivers pay much of the insurance costs for high risk drivers? Neither did I. What really got my attention is that in 2011, there will be a shortfall of $132 million which should be paid by the more dangerous drivers, and guess who will make that up too? The Clean Risk Surcharge doesn’t show up on your insurance bill either. If the two legislative bodies can agree, then about 85 percent of all safe drivers will see a reduction in their auto insurance bills. Both bills propose an elimination of the “safe driver tax” over 5-7 years. It amazes me that there is such a tax at all, but even more to hear that it should be eliminated over such an extended period of time.
Though the clean risk surcharge averages 7 percent of a safe driver’s bill, it can range as high as 10 percent. State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin pointed out that there are too many North Carolina drivers in the high risk pool. More than 1.2 million N.C. drivers are considered high risk, by far the largest amount in the nation. The Insurance Federation of North Carolina backs the Senate bill to eliminate the tax. Plans are to gradually reduce the amount of drivers classified as high risk, eventually reducing the need for the Clean Risk Surcharge.
For my part, I hope to still be a candidate for that complete rate reduction, even though it won’t happen right away. It really helps to pay attention while driving. For more information, go to