Papa Don’t Preach: 30 Days with a Backseat Driver

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Despite what my wife might say, I’m not a bad driver. I’m a good driver with bad habits. I brake too hard. I sometimes don’t use my turn signal. I occasionally test the recommended speed limit when taking sharp turns. In my defense, I drove a submarine in the Navy, and those things don’t even have turn signals or brakes, so … yeah.

I’ve grown comfortable with my motor vehicle skills over the past 20 years, but when my wife told me we’d be doing a 30-day trial of Progressive’s Snapshot Discount – a gadget that tracks your bad driving habits in order to determine your potential car insurance discount (up to 30 percent) – I was a little nervous.

The little gray device plugs into your car’s diagnostic port and monitors how many miles you drive, how hard you brake, rapid acceleration, and how often you drive between what I’m assuming are the “dangerous” hours of midnight and 4 a.m. However, it doesn’t track your speed (not so smart now, are you Snapshot?) or whether all four tires are on the ground, so I knew I’d still be able to have some fun on my morning commute.

My first day with the device was nerve-wracking. I braked sloooooowly. Accelerated sloooooowly. Took corners sloooooowly. (Although I’m pretty sure now that it doesn’t even monitor acceleration and cornering.) I drove sort of like you would if there were a fresh blanket of snow on the ground. In other words, safely, but annoyingly so. Because I was so focused on my driving habits, my morning commute seemed to take three hours instead of the usual 20 minutes.

By the fourth day, I became more comfortable with Snapshot – until my wife gave me my first status report. “The website says you’re braking too hard,” she told me. “Only two on the first day, but 12 times in the past two days.”

I was frustrated. I thought Snapshot and I had bonded, but I guess not. And to think that I had actually considered giving that cute little plastic box a name (I liked “Snappy”). Despite my occasional mistakes, we were still on pace for a 14 percent discount if we switched to Progressive.

With my perfect Snapshot driving record off the table, I decided to test the device, which supposedly beeps at you if you brake especially hard (it worked). I would unintentionally trigger the subtle warning four or five more times over the next four weeks but, overall, I felt like I did a good job as a driver. Not 30 percent good, mind you, but not terrible.

So how’d I do?

After my 30-day trial with Snapshot, I went online to check my results (something I’d resisted doing throughout the process). According to Mama Snapshot, I racked up an eight percent savings on our car insurance.

Overall, our time with Snapshot was great learning experience. The main lessons: I have a lead foot off the starting line, and cute little plastic boxes can be surprisingly honest about your driving skills. To give a try for yourself (it’s free, and you don’t need to be a current Progressive customer), feel free to sign up on the Progressive website.

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  1. who wants big brother in the car with you? not me

  2. Great and funny review! My husband really needs to have this. And I would love to be able to track it, LOL.

  3. That would be nice to know how well you are driving, I guess until you see your actual results. LOL.

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