Fast and furious? Your life insurer is curious

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Fast and furious? Your life insurer is curious

Right now, I’m going to say some things that those of us with driver’s licenses have done, but will never admit to in a public forum. We’ve all ignored those speed limit signs; we’ve all done rolling stops at stop signs; we’ve all made unsafe lane changes, and many of us have driven home after having "one too many" of our favorite drink.

I’ll admit to the first one: the last time I was pulled over, I was doing somewhere between 10 and 30 mph over the speed limit on an Interstate, with out-of-state license plates. (Slightly more on that at the end.)

Many of us do the aforementioned, and we suffer(ed) the consequences—tickets, points on our records, collisions, driving under the influence convictions and higher auto insurance rates. But, did you know that these things also affect what you can pay for life insurance?

Yep. Your driving record matters. Unsafe driving makes you a higher risk to insurance carriers, and they’ll charge more because of it. I’ll use statistics to show why.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the US Department of Transportation, there were 32,719 speed-related crashes in 2013, and 9,613 of them resulted in fatalities. If those 9,613 deaths each had a $250,000 life insurance policy, that’s $2.4 billion paid out by life insurance carriers.

Then there are the 2013 alcohol-related crash stats: 6,515 fatalities out of 20,871 total. If all those fatalities (which includes drivers and non-drivers alike) each had a $250,000 life insurance policy, that’s $1.6 billion paid out by life insurance carriers.

That huge amount of money is why life insurance carriers obtain driving records as part of the application process. If an applicant is cited more often for speed, or has several Driving Under the Influence citations or convictions, he or she is a higher risk because a payout could occur.

• Want more ways to save money on life insurance? Here are nine tips.

But you, like me, are an awesome driver—no wrecks in 20 years (13 for me), your radar detector works brilliantly, and/or you can handle your alcohol. It’s true—many drive home from the bar without getting a DUI or hitting someone or something. Many do 90 in a 55 regularly without incident. But as we say in the insurance industry, all it takes is one time.

So slow down, drive safely and call a cab. There’s no point in risking your or someone else's life; nor is there any reason to pay more for a policy than you have to.

Oh, and that traffic stop I mentioned before? Luckily, the trooper changed it from "speeding" to "ignoring a traffic control device" that never showed on my driving record. That saved me close to $300 in fines. Being lucky is great, but being good costs much less.

Photo: Thomas Mauer