The Downside of Cheaper Gas

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An Exxon Mobile Corp. Gas Station Ahead Of Earnings Figures
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

By Dandan Zou

With gas prices down by more than $ 1 a gallon in the past year, Americans collectively are spending $ 350 million a day less at the gas pump than they were a year ago, says the American Automobile Association. But the drop in gas prices, along with a stronger economy, has led to more driving — and more accidents. And that’s adding up to higher insurance costs.

Through the first seven months of 2015, U.S. drivers put a record 1.8 trillion miles on the road, says the Federal Highway Administration. The National Safety Council estimates a 10 percent increase in traffic fatalities over that time compared with a year ago. Geico and Allstate (ALL) have already reported an increase in the frequency and severity of claims, and both have announced that they are hiking rates. Morningstar (MORN) analyst Brett Horn expects other insurers to follow suit.

It might pay to reshop your policy and to drive as if gas were still expensive. When it is, drivers tend to accelerate and brake gradually and maintain a steady speed to save gas, says Pennsylvania State University professor Guangqing Chi, who has studied the correlation. That’s a good way to keep your record clean and your rates low.

 

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