and the cars that might have saved them
A small fortune is spent by insurance companies trying to convince is that their car insurance policies provide the cheapest, fairest, and most beneficial cover available. They may or may not be right. However in the long run are they ultimately doomed? Will car insurance, as we know it, still exist in 20 years time? will cheap (or even, they claim, VERY cheap) car insurance from verycheapestcarinsurance.org.uk or whatever they call themselves still be necessary? And why did we need cheap (which it certainly is not) car insurance in the first place?
In 1930 a new Road Traffic Act made it compulsory for all motorised vehicle drivers to be covered by insurance to indemnify them against liability for any losses, injuries or deaths that they may cause to other persons whilst they were driving on a public highway. This law only covers the United Kingdom of course and other countries have different laws in place.
In general however it is safe to say that the majority of people who buy car insurance only do so because they are legally compelled to.
Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries cars have been desirable purchases not only for transport of people and goods but also for recreation and prestige. Literally hundreds of manufacturers have created what they usually hoped would be profitable businesses building vehicles that they thought would be popular only to see their dreams dashed; but conversely a few massive companies have been built providing huge numbers of cars at reasonable prices. This may however be coming to an end.
Throughout the world there is an increasing demand for a cleaner environment. Petrol and diesel fuelled cars have always created massive pollution problems. These were alleviated to a degree when leaded petrol was phased out; up until then lead in the air of cities in particular was a huge problem. However cars still present other problems with their production of carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and tiny carbon particles which can injure the lungs of people breathing them in. The introduction of hybrid and electrically propelled vehicles has been partly to alleviate these concerns.
At the same time an increasing number of young people (who suffer the highest car insurance premiums regardless of whether they have been in accidents in the past or not) in the United States of America and Europe are finding no need for car ownership, particularly those that live in the big cities, because of the increasing availability of relatively cheap taxi services thanks to Uber and similar companies. Why, indeed, have an expensive car, needing regular maintenance and perhaps repairs, sat outside a house for most of it's life as it’s value deteriorates when for reasonably small sums a taxi can be available within minutes?
Whilst the self driving car is still in the development stage; and to be realistic may never arrive in a form that is useful outside of cities and motorways that have been designed to accommodate it; there have been huge advances in technology along the way which have improved the safety of motor vehicles. Crash testing has made many cars much safer for both those inside the car and outside it, with airbags, crumple zones and smoother surfaces designed to cause the minimum possible injury to drivers, passengers and pedestrians. It is now possible to buy a car which will prevent a driver from getting too close to one in front, and help with lane discipline if it senses that the driver’s attention has wandered. Anti-lock brakes cut down skidding incidences considerably and smart road systems can warn drivers of hazards ahead so that they can be aware of potential dangers and slow down.
Even if we never have truly self driving cars it is still possible that the risk of accidents as a result of human error can be reduced dramatically thanks to this technology. Indeed road traffic accidents have been gradually falling in number and severity over many years now as a result of these technological advances.
This begs the question; if accidents happen in the future, despite all the technology which is packed into cars to prevent them, who would be to blame? Would it be the driver of the car in question; or the manufacturer of the car, which failed to prevent it?
One of the major dangers of making a car as safe as humanly possible is that drivers may come to rely upon these safety features too much and assume that they will get them out of trouble when they need them to. This could mean that the very technology designed to protect against accidents could actually cause them!
From a tiny beginning a decade or so ago short term car cover has grown to become a major insurance product; it is even possible to insure a car for just one day from this one day car insurance site and similar companies and this reflects the way that people are turning their backs on full time car ownership.
A combination of environmental concerns, self driving cars that could be called up at any time from a central pool and cheaper taxis could mean a huge decline in the number of private cars on the roads of Britain in the future. The technology in these cars should make them ever more safe, so that the likelihood of accidents should continue to decline. Manufacturers of that technology may be obliged to accept more responsibility for those accidents that do occur.
If these things come to pass, what is the justification for making drivers buy car insurance?