July 12, 2013

In what was described as the ‘first’ instance of death by telematics, many newspapers recently reported how rap-loving young farmer Ollie Pain, 18, tragically topped himself and a mate in November last year racing home to beat a telematics curfew.

We really should have seen this coming. Last October when Bankstone News reported that the ABI wanted to ban young drivers from our roads between the hours of 11pm and 4am, we speculated that late night cafés and motorways service stations might see a surge in small-hours coffee sales as delayed young drivers sat out the night mid-journey. But, as it turns out, far darker outcomes lay in wait.

The ABI’s proposals were, of course, dismissed by those in power.

Some black box insurers, however, have incorporated curfew provisions into their young driver policies, and it was while racing his Renault Clio home along the treelined twists, turns, and undulations of the Cotswolds’ western escarpment to beat one such black box curfew, that Oliver Pain ran off the road near North Nibley in Gloucestershire, killing both himself and his friend Harry Smith.

Rather than simply pulling off the road into the surrounding woods and huddling together against the winter chill til one minute past four, Pain decided – the coroner’s surmised – that he could just about make it back before 11pm if he put his foot down. Breaking the insurer’s curfew carried a £100 penalty. Whereas speeding meant only a warning letter on the first two occasions.

From a purely financial perspective, this calculation would have made perfect sense. The inexperienced driver’s decision to drive faster than he was used to, round winding tree-lined rural roads at night, however, gave rise to circumstances in which that warning letter, when it finally arrived, must have seemed a bitter bureaucratic footnote to a young life brutally sacrificed upon the altar of electronic espionage.

We insure 15,000 people on policies like these, commented insurers Towergate Smart shamelessly, and this is the first one killed by a curfew. Ironically, Pain’s black box showed that the night he and Smith died was the first time he had exceeded the speed limit since he qualified six months previously.

Coroner David Dooley has written to the insurers suggesting they tweak their policies. Presumably so that they don’t financially incentivise speeding late at night.

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