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Some Auto-Related Odds and Ends

Several interesting things have popped up on my radar over the last few days about auto insurance. First, MileMeter looks to be set to expand out of Texas and into California. If you haven’t heard of the outfit, they write pay-by-the-mile policies.

The Brookings Institute ran the numbers, and about two-thirds of the households in America would save — on average — $270 a year with that coverage model. At the lowest rate of liability with an allotment of 2,000 driving miles, you’d pay $89.60 for six months. Read that again. Six months.

That’s pretty sweet, but the coverage is exactly what it says it is. The more you drive, the more you pay. But the concept is catching on, with laws in 35 states now allowing the policies to be issued. Some of the big boys are looking to get in the game — Progressive, American Family, and GMAC. I’m a very low mileage driver and I intend to keep my eye on this one.

On a more disturbing note, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration just released a study indicating that drug use is involved in approximately 20 percent of auto fatalities in America. That’s up from just 13 percent in 2005.

Of course, they’re counting all kinds of drugs — legal and illegal — and it’s usually impossible to know exactly when the substance was ingested, but it’s still a disturbing number — even if it means Americans are taking more prescription drugs than ever before. I have taken plenty of legal drugs that put me in no shape to be behind the wheel.

The last item speaks to the kind of substance-related driving impairment we’re most familiar with. Drunk driving. The State of Mississippi has decided to do something about that over the past two years. With good cause. They had one of the highest mortality rates to drunk driving in the nation.

In 2007, 384 people died in the state as a consequence of a drunk behind the wheel. In 2010, that number is just 232. How are they doing it? Handing out DUIs like they’re candy and good for them. As the sheriff of Hinds County, Malcolm McMillin so succinctly put it, “Here are things we know we can prevent through enforcement and stiff penalties. It’s a deterrent.”

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