Unsafe at any screed

Last month I was chatting in the church parking lot with friends when a Prius pulled out. The bumper was bare. On person in the group asked "What gives?  I thought those things came from the Toyota factory with an Obama bumper sticker."

If like my friend you have found some hybrid owners to be a bit in your face with their left wing self righteousness, a new insurance industry survey shows some other labels may also fit.  Hypocrite, road hog, speed demon and accident prone come to mind after reading the analysis of the driving habits of 360,000 vehicle owners prepared by San Francisco based Quality Planning Corporation.

The surprising result: Hybrid drivers typically drive farther, get more tickets, and have significantly more expensive insurance claims.

Owning a supposedly environmentally friendly hybrid may actually help increase the number of nonessential trips drivers take, offsetting all the supposed ecological benefits of owning a hybrid.

The firm looked at several common use categories used by insurers-including "pleasure use" (everyday driving) and "high commute" (commuting more than 15 miles a day). The long commuters traveled about the same distance whether they drove a hybrid or not, but the everyday drivers of hybrids drove about 25 percent (2,000 miles) farther than those of non-hybrids-largely offsetting any petroleum savings.

Hybrid drivers also had more than their share of tickets and a far more expensive insurance claims.

Looking at moving violations, Quality Planning found that Toyota Prius drivers get 0.38 violations per 100,000 miles driven, compared to an average of 0.23.  Collision loss costs are also much higher for hybrids-with comprehensive coverage loss about 17 percent higher than average. Furthermore, two-the Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Ford Escape Hybrid-have among the highest collision loss costs. For 2006 hybrid models, the costs to the insurer of comprehensive coverage were 75 percent higher than average.

What makes this even more ironic is that many insurance companies offer discounts to hybrid owners.  That is likely to change. Quality Planning Corporation provides data to insurance companies to help them adjust their rating structures.  Its president had some advice to his clients.

"High mileage drivers appear to be attracted to these vehicles, so insurers should take steps to verify the intended use of hybrids and validate actual miles driven whenever possible," said Dr. Raj Bhat, the president of Quality Planning.......

"A 25-percent increase in miles driven or a 30-percent differential in loss costs is very significant," said Bhat.

HT: Ace of Spades