Friday, August 5, 2016

Maine's seniors deserve respect, not discrimination - By Sen. Bill Diamond


I was concerned recently when I read an article in the paper saying that Progressive Insurance Company was planning to give all of its Maine auto insurance customers an unexpected 65th birthday surprise: A 6 percent rate increase.
 
I have submitted legislation — along with Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville — to keep that from happening by prohibiting rate increases based solely on age. I will do everything in my power to make sure my bill passes. Any policy discriminating against seniors simply because they are seniors is disrespectful and wrong.

Since the news of Progressive’s plan was published, I’ve heard from a lot of folks — seniors and their children and grandchildren — who are concerned that other insurance companies will follow Progressive’s lead. They’re worried that if this policy is allowed, what will stop insurance companies from jacking seniors’ rates up even higher? Who says it will stop at six percent?

The end result may well be a situation where seniors can either pay an exorbitant amount of money for car insurance, or opt to give up their right to drive, and thus their independence, completely. That’s an unacceptable choice to have to make in a rural state like ours, where reliable public transportation isn’t an option in most areas.

Some may assume this rate increase is just a way to account for the added risk that seniors pose to other drivers. But here’s the truth: There is no added risk. According to published research, drivers aged 75 and older are involved with just three percent of all crashes annually. Compare that to drivers aged 35 to 44, who are involved in 18 percent of all crashes. The figures for teens are even higher.
And seniors are more careful about driving safely, according to AAA. They are far less likely to drive drunk, use the Internet or text while driving, or go out in bad weather. You’re not very likely to see a senior playing Pok√©mon Go while behind the wheel.

The State of Maine has a process in place to address concerns about an individual’s capability to operate a car. Anyone with a legitimate grievance about a specific person can file a report with the secretary of state, who will investigate and decide if action is warranted. Furthermore, older drivers must take vision tests and are required to renew their licenses more often than younger drivers. These practices are fair and sensible.

In the 1990s when I was Secretary of State, I opposed road testing for seniors. I argued in favor of seniors’ independence, and that concerns over their ability to drive safely were largely unfounded. Road testing was an indignity and I saw no justification for it.

I will continue to fight for seniors’ independence now, just as I did then. Seniors deserve our respect, consideration, kindness and appreciation, for all they have contributed to our society. They do not deserve to be discriminated against, ripped off, and caused anxiety by the kinds of business practices proposed by Progressive. 

As always, please feel free to contact me at diamondhollyd@aol.com or (207) 287-1515, if you have questions or comments.

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