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assembly line

Photograph courtesy of
Library of Congress

Since the invention of the automobile and especially after it had gained popularity and availability, people have been interested in driving behaviors.

Traffic enforcement officers, city planners, car manufacturers, and insurance agencies are concerned about the behaviors of drivers to make driving more enjoyable, more safe, and less expensive. Here are some samples of perspectives different groups and industries have about driving behaviors....

Insurance agencies, in providing the best service for the least amount of expense for the consumer, have identified "high risk" groups, based on research done by actuaries. Actuaries are people who look at data and statistics to determine which people seem to have the most frequency of accidents. Through this data, actuaries make conclusions that certain factors or situations are commonly present in accidents. For example, many accidents may involve people who drink alcohol, or may involve people who are under the age of 22 years.

Car up tree

"Car Up Tree"
Warning to Drivers - Wilson, North Carolina

Photograph courtesy of
Library of Congress

This research provides the basis for lower or higher rates for each consumer as a group. In some cases, drivers may be referred to high risk providers that are able to charge higher rates, in order to cover the increased insurance costs of these specific individuals.

In this same way, some people get lower rates because they have "preferred" qualities, like not driving a sports car or being older. These ideas can all be traced back to actuaries and statistics.

The reason we need this information is clear. Insurance agents cannot investigate each individual who wants automotive insurance; therefore they rely on general statistics or actuary tables to make generalizations about basic risk factors. This way they can offer lower rates to "low risk" drivers without too much concern that they will become financial liabilities in the future.

Low risk driver

From another perspective, car manufacturers and other private businesses use their knowledge of different characteristics to market specific cars to people in a particular demographic group. Think of names of different types of automobiles...like Viper, Prowler, Mustang, Cobra, Windstar, Caravan, Odyssey, and Aerostar. Can you pick which ones are marketed for a "family car" or a "sports car"?

Hopefully, a Cobra isn't the name of a new minivan for hauling around the preschoolers!

The point of all this is that car manufacturers name, design, and market certain types of cars for certain people or groups of people. It isn't just the name; it is the entire product, the speed of the car, the look of the car, the safety of the car that manufacturers are selling to specific people. What the manufacturers want to know is, "Who wants safe cars?", "Who wants fast cars?", and "Who wants cars with lots of seats?" All of these questions can be answered by researching driving behaviors of people.

Additionally, other public safety officials are concerned about where speeding happens most. For example, if people in the country speed more than people in the city, more traffic enforcement officers patrol that area.

However, if there are more deaths in an area due to driving over the speed limit, that may determine how many traffic enforcement officers are assigned to an area.

City planners and other government agencies determine what speeds are appropriate for an area and a road. Depending on the amount of traffic, the type of road (4 lane, 2 lane, interstate), the area of town (residential, industrial), and other factors. These people also are concerned with driving behaviors.

  1999, KanCRN Collaborative Research Network