Burke: Your driving habits impact my insurance rates

Recently Las Vegas was awarded the distinction of having some of the most expensive auto insurance rates in the county and still climbing.

Why, do you ask?

Simple, just take a drive to Las Vegas, head through town and notice how people drive. Turn signals are inoperative on cars once they enter Las Vegas, stop signs are only a suggestion, and yellow lights mean “floor it!” Yield means “I am coming onto the freeway so make room before I hit you.” And a favorite sport of drivers on the freeway in Las Vegas is drafting. They apparently think that either they are racing at Talladega or that if they run their car nose right up to your bumper you will somehow magically make all the traffic in front of you go faster.

But statistics tell us that maybe those drivers in Las Vegas don’t have the reactions of Superman and in fact aren’t very good at avoiding accidents. If you drive in Las Vegas often enough you will just about be guaranteed to see an accident. My favorite is the lone car on its side on the freeway with no other cars involved in the crash. How do you roll your car on a freeway in the middle of the day and not have multiple cars involved? More common to see is the three or four car pileup. Someone had to slow down and all those drivers that had their car’s front bumpers just a few feet from the next car’s rear end managed to slam right into them.

In some dark room in some ivory tower sits an insurance company actuary. This person’s sole mission at the insurance company is to calculate the measurement and management of risk and uncertainty and assign a monetary value to it. Put simply, the more auto accidents an area has, the higher the risk and hence, the higher the insurance rates.

In another life, I was lucky enough to race cars professionally. High speed maneuvers take training and a car fine-tuned for a particular racetrack. In Western Europe, cars go through an annual inspection to verify their safety and road worthiness. If you want a driver’s license in Europe, be prepared to pay for extensive driver training and months of instruction before you are allowed on the Autobahn.

Growing up here in Pahrump, and much of rural Nevada, we got started driving behind our family’s tractor. And we graduated to dirt bikes and ATVs throwing dirt rooster tails at our friends. All very important skills that we don’t know we would need for driving as an adult in Vegas!

For some reason in the U.S.A., we think that having a driver’s license is a right, not a privilege. Driving school and defensive driving classes must be for wimps, right? Attend a class with a skid wheel set up and then let me know what you think about your ability to recover from a car sliding out of control. And we think that we can jump in a car with bad brakes, bald tires, bad lights, and wobbly steering and not worry about our safety or the safety of others. Wrong.

Fortunately, here in Pahrump, we enjoy much lower auto insurance rates than Vegas. That’s taking into account that we have lots of tourists traveling through our town each day on their trek to Death Valley. We can keep our rates down by just doing a few things: Drive the speed limit, don’t tailgate, and use our turn signals. Look both ways and pull out into traffic when there is plenty of room. And hey, to the old guy in the pickup behind me honking because he thinks I should pull out onto Highway 160 in front of traffic, too bad, you can wait. My insurance rates depend on it.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com