Feud heats up over ‘Good Driver Discount’

Published 9:56 am Thursday, June 12, 2014

By Stephanie Carroll Carson

NC News Service

RALEIGH – The rates North Carolina drivers pay for car insurance could go up, and it wouldn’t be because of a person’s driving record under legislation being currently proposed in the General Assembly.

State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin isn’t a fan of what’s being called the “Good Driver Discount Bill” circulating in State Assembly committees. He’s convinced it wouldn’t offer anything but increased insurance rates for motorists.

“My experts and a number of the larger insurance carriers here agree with me,” Goodwin said. “Instead of lowering premiums for North Carolina drivers, it actually will cause their premiums to go up.”

North Carolina has the lowest car insurance rates in the Southeast, due in part to Goodwin’s ability to set a cap on rates charged by insurance companies, and insurance companies compete by offering discounts below the established cap. The proposed legislation would allow companies to opt out of the current system and bypass the cap set by the insurance commissioner.

Supporters of the proposed legislation say Goodwin would still have the power to approve or reject rates proposed by individual companies. They also note that the legislation will allow companies to offer car insurance discounts that aren’t currently available in North Carolina. However, Goodwin said he’s worried that, with the cap removed, there would be nothing to stop rates from increasing.

“That’s a tremendous concern of mine,” he said. “I want to make sure that our drivers, our families, our small businesses are not hit with some increases in their car insurance bills.

“If this proposal passes, I am certain that car insurance rates will go up—even for good drivers,” he added. “Despite what profit-driven insurance companies will tell you, I will have little to no authority to stop rates from going through the roof.”

More than 150 companies write insurance policies in North Carolina, making it a highly competitive market. According to the state Insurance Department, there already are 2,000 discounts available to drivers.

Goodwin said the proposed change would dismantle a system that’s working well. According to a recent study by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, North Carolina has the sixth lowest average auto insurance rates in the country.

“Insurance companies can and do offer discounts in North Carolina. If they’re not offering discounts here, it’s because our rates are already so low. The insurance companies don’t need a change in law to charge you less. The only reason they need a change in law is to charge you more,” said Goodwin. “This bill has nothing to do with helping drivers. It has everything to do with insurance companies’ bottom line.”

Goodwin encourages North Carolinians to contact their state legislators and tell them to oppose the so-called Good Driver Discount Bill.