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Aggressive driving not affecting rates ... so far

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by Steve Vert

SBJ Contributing Writer

When a March study by the Surface Transportation Policy Project tagged Springfield's drivers as among the most aggressive in the nation, some officials disagreed, saying STPP's definition of aggressive driving didn't consider a driver's mental state.

"If a person runs a red light and kills someone, by their criteria that's an aggressive driving accident and death," said Lt. Ron Hutcheson, police traffic commander. "But why did they run the red light? Were they in a hurry or asleep at the wheel? I don't think we should get caught up in semantics."

While definitions of aggressive driving abound, insurance professionals such as Larry Jansen, a certified insurance counselor with PJC Insurance, say they aren't aware of one in use by their industry.

"It's hard to define the aggressive driver," Jansen said. "Is it someone who wasn't thinking and went through a red light? To me, that's not aggressive, it's careless. But once you've got the ticket, it doesn't much matter why."

Statistics show Springfield's streets are some of the state's most dangerous, leaving motorists aware that the driving habits of others have an impact on safety to wonder how those often slipshod practices are affecting their insurance rates.

But if the bad news is that the bad driving habits of the masses can cause insurance rates to go up, the good news is they don't seem to be a major factor yet.

"If over time, if that aggressive driver attitude continued and it solely involved Greene County, it could contribute to increased liability rates," said Dick Jackson, president and chief executive officer of Barker Phillips Jackson. "But it's only a small chunk of what goes into a person's rates."

According to Jackson, factors used to compute basic insurance rates include the base rate for the territory where the vehicle is operated which reflects the habits of local drivers the type of vehicle and what it's used for, and the operator's driving record.

"The formula used to figure out the base rate for the territory is rather complicated," Jackson said. "But in cartoon form you're talking about the frequency and severity of liability accidents that take place per mile driven."

The type of vehicle operated, its value and the frequency of events such as car theft can also drive rates up quickly, Jackson said.

"Cars with different values will have different rates," Jackson said. "Just as the use of a vehicle for business will result in a higher rate, since it's presumed it will be driven more miles."

The final piece of the puzzle is the driver's record.

"History has a tendency to repeat itself where accidents are concerned," Jackson said. "Tickets for speeding increase the risk. And drivers pay for that."

To demonstrate the effects of a vehicle's territory of operation, Jackson used the cost of minimum liability insurance for a 1994 Mercury.

In Springfield, the six-month cost was $146. In Kansas City it increased to $159[[In-content Ad]]

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