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Last
month, I wrote an editorial (“Paying
less”
) supporting a bill in Sacramento
that would allow auto insurance companies to offer pay-as-you-go insurance to
drivers willing to verify their mileage. The policies, already available in 34
other states, offer people a chance to pay less if they drive less – and prove
it.

On
Wednesday, state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner proposed new regulations
that would allow insurers to offer pay-as-you-go plans in California.

Poizner,
a possible Republican candidate for governor in 2010, was applauded by both
insurers and consumer groups. In the Legislature, pay-as-you-go is sponsored by
Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. His bill has cleared the Assembly and
is awaiting action on the Senate floor. A spokesman said Huffman has been
working with Poizner, is comfortable with the proposed regulations and doesn’t
plan to bring his bill up for a vote.

A
study by the Brookings Institution estimated that two-thirds of households
would benefit from pay-as-you-go auto insurance, saving an average of $270 a
year and reducing miles driven by 8 percent. Huffman has emphasized the
environmental benefits of getting people to drive less.

However,
some people have expressed privacy reservations about verifying their mileage,
saying the records could be subpoenaed in a divorce or other lawsuit.

A
Los Angeles Times
account of Poizner’s news conference said drivers could report their annual
mileage in three ways: They could have their vehicle odometer checked by an
insurance company representative; they could submit maintenance records; or
they could have an electronic device installed in their cars that would
transmit information to insurers.
The monitoring systems would track miles driven but not how or where someone
drives as occurs in other states and countries that have pay-as-you-drive
insurance, Poizner said.

Would
you watch your miles – and give proof to your insurer – in return for a break
on your auto insurance premiums? I would.


Jim Sweeney