N.J. to Assess High-Tech Auto Safety Gadgets

May 27, 2004

The McGreevey Administration thinks new safety technology for autos and roadways such as on-board navigation systems may be helpful in reducing auto insurance crashes and costs in New Jersey.

Banking and Insurance Commissioner Holly C. Bakke and Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere announced plans to assemble a “Task Force – Reducing Auto Risks Through Technology.”

“As New Jersey’s high-tech industry continues to grow, the potential for it to make our roads safer and insurance more affordable is enormous,” Governor James E. McGreevey said.

The task force is comprised of experts in law enforcement, highway safety, and insurance, and is rooted in a collective belief that the implementation of high technology systems in vehicles will reduce accidents and put a downward pressure on automobile insurance rates.

The concept of using high technology to make our roads safer and insurance more affordable was initially raised in the legislature by Senator Byron M. Baer.

“Insurance companies spend a great deal of time and money performing crash tests to assess the potential damage a crash could cause. Now, the state can work together with them to investigate ways of decreasing the chance of those crashes happening at all,” said Senator Byron M. Baer, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

“New technologies have the potential to revolutionize the way we think about driver safety. These innovations will not only save money, but also lives.”

“New technology can make our roads safer, which translates into fewer automobile accidents, fewer injuries and fewer insurance claims,” Bakke said. “If we can reduce the number of accidents, we can reduce the cost of auto insurance in New Jersey, further contributing to the Governor’s goal to maintain a downward pressure on premiums, which has already resulted in more than $100 million back to policyholders.”

In 2002, there were more than 320,000 automobile accidents resulting in 83,000 injuries and 770 fatalities in New Jersey. Driver fatigue, limited visibility, inclement weather, poor street design and degraded road conditions increase the likelihood of accidents. This task force will identify safety enhancing technologies and initiatives that will improve driving conditions in and outside of the car.

These automated devices, collectively known as “intelligent technology systems,” are being developed every day. Most popular examples are on-board navigation systems which provide real-time news, traffic and weather; crash notification systems which warn drivers of impending collisions; and electronic stability control which correct the effects of oversteering or understeering a vehicle.

“There is a direct nexus between the safety of our roads and the cost of auto insurance,” said NJDOT Commissioner Jack Lettiere. “The Task Force will study ways to influence insurance companies to reward policyholders with lower rates if they drive cars equipped with the latest safety features. This may be the added incentive consumers need to invest in these new technologies.”

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