Driver who died rushing home to beat insurance curfew played a very significant factor in his driving’
Black Box technology is being blamed for playing a significant part in the death of a teenage driver and his passenger. A coroner has said that the driver, Oliver Pain repeatedly broke the speed limit to get home to beat his insurance company’s curfew.
Oliver Pain, 18, Renault Clio was fitted with black box technology that monitored his driving on behalf of his insurer. The policy allowed Mr Pain to drive between 5am and 11pm, but if he broke this curfew faced a £100 fine. Interestingly, the policy would only penalise the policy holder if they exceeded the speed limit by fifty percent.
During that fateful night on the 13th November 2012, Mr Pain repeatedly broke speed limits as he drove from Chipping Dodbury, near Bristol at up to 74mph to his home in North Nibley, Gloucestershire with his friend Harry Smith, 17.
The friends who were minutes from home, when at 10:42pm, Mr Pain lost control of his car on a bend on a lane near the M5 Michaelwood services hitting two trees. At the time of the accident where Mr Pain and Mr Smith died of head injuries, Gloucestershire Police collision investigator David Holland said the car was doing 57mph when it went out of control.
The limit on the lane was 60mph and the tracking system confirmed that Mr Pain had reached up to 74 mph that night. PC Holland said: “This trip seems to have been an exception to his previous driving record.
“For the seven to eight months before the accident Mr Pain had complied well with the speed and curfew limits set by the insurers, but he exceeded the limit throughout the journey right up to the collision point.”
Oliver Pain was quoted more than £3,000 for an insurance policy when he passed his test. The black box reduced his annual insurance premium to £1,850.
Returning verdicts of accidental death at the inquest in Gloucester yesterday, acting Gloucestershire coroner David Dooley said he was satisfied Mr Pain’s rush to beat the curfew was ‘a very significant factor in his driving’.
Mr Dooley will write to insurers Towergate Smart to voice his ‘real concern of future deaths’ over rules which he said ‘incentivise’ young drivers to speed to beat the curfew.
“One must question why he decided he needed to drive quickly on this journey – the answer to which, I believe, lies with the tracking device and the criteria of its use.
“It is probable he believed he had to hurry back to avoid a curfew penalty. On that journey he exceeded the speed limit on numerous occasions. But none of the speeds on the evening in question would have attracted any sort of reprimand from IQ.”
Speaking at the inquest, Mr Dooley said: ‘It does appear that the curfew was the factor causing him to drive as he did.
The coroner, Mr Dooley said: “On the balance of probabilities I think his decision to go at this speed was due to his wish to avoid breaching the curfew penalty.’
Under Rule 43 of the Coroners Act, Dooley said he would write to Towergate Smart to voice his ‘real concern of future deaths’ if the system was not amended.
The coroner said he acknowledged that the system was designed by Towergate to reduce irresponsible driving by young motorists and therefore reduce insurance premiums with a reward system. But it appeared the system had also created a risk.
Mr Dooley continued: “My letter will be asking that this risk is addressed. There is a fresh potential risk arising from the institution of this curfew.
“I would suggest perhaps a balance should be struck between the penalties imposed for breach of curfew and for speeding. Perhaps the maximum speed limits should be reduced.
“It may require extra technology but it is something I believe should be addressed. I don’t raise any question of blame in respect of the technology.
“It is designed, as far as I can see, with good intentions. It might only need fine tuning of the penalties to avoid the deaths of young drivers trying to beat the clock.”
But Oliver’s mother, Mrs Pain, 44, is not convinced that her son was speeding in order to beat the curfew.She said: “He was three minutes from home and had 18 minutes to get back when the accident happened,
‘Ollie knew he had to be home by 11pm. He was minutes from home. We had told him that if he thought he was not going to be home by 11pm to call us and tell us. We might have been a bit miffed but we would sort out getting him home.”
Towergate Smart’s managing director Ian Brown told the inquest the technology had been launched in 2006 and confirmed two young drivers had died in accidents while subject to the system but importantly neither was on the road close to curfew time.
Mr Brown also said: “We have sold over 15,000 of these policies and this is the first case I have come across like this. The driving record of all policy holders was taken into account when insurance was renewed and those who had not been speeding would get lower premiums.”
Mr Brown continued: “The average financial saving for a young driver who bought one of their policies and agreed to the penalty clauses would be £450 to £500 a year.
“The reason for the 11pm-5am curfew was that those were the hours when most severe accidents involving young drivers occurred.”[gap height=”20″]
A £100 fine for being a few minutes over your insurers curfew, but you can drive at excessive speeds and not face a penalty!
I am struggling to understand how you can break the speed limit by up to 50 per cent and not be penalised by insurance companies. At lower speeds this would allow you to drive at 45mph in a 30mph zone. As speed limits increase this could mean you could drive at up to 105mph without facing any penalties from your insurance.
At the time of the accident Mr Pain could have driven at up to 90mph without risking any fines, which raises serious concerns if the leeway given by insurers is far to high? It could be deemed reasonable if a ten or fifteen percent allowance was allowed, but fifty percent is ridiculous.
Rebecca Pain, Oliver’s mother agrees and said she felt the speeding condition should be lowered.
Mrs Pain said: “It gives them too much leeway – 50 per cent is too high.
“It needs to be more like the police rules, which are 10 per cent over, plus 2mph.”
‘We had told him that if he thought he was not going to be home by 11pm to call us and tell us. We might have been a bit miffed but we would sort out getting him home’ Natalie Pain, Oliver’s mother
Mrs Pain went on to say she also believes that learner drivers should be taught to drive at a speed suitable for the conditions, rather than driving to a speed limit.
Mrs Pain continued: “these country roads have a 60mph speed limit but it is not safe to drive at that speed. He was going 57mph at the time of his accident, but he was not going above the speed limit.
“At the time of Ollie’s accident it was also wet roads, there were leaves, and everyone here knows it is a road notorious for lots of deer. Kids need to be taught to drive for the individual conditions.”