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In some cases, a sensor is plugged directly into a car's diagnostics port to monitor the car and driver. Other programs use smartphone apps that work with a Bluetooth-enabled sensor positioned in the vehicle. That eliminates the need for a fixed connection to the car itself. "Think of these devices as a way to get insurance more 'custom-tailored' to the way you drive," said Lynne McChristian of the Insurance Information Institute, an independent industry-supported research group. McChristian noted that these programs are not new — the first usage-based car devices appeared more than a decade ago — and the results have been encouraging.
"Telematic devices help a driver monitor their own driving behavior and that leads to better drivers," McChristian said. "Studies have indicated that the crash rates fell between 20 [and] 30 percent in cars monitored via telematics." McChristian said having a device that acts like "a nagging backseat driver" forces car owners to reconsider aggressive behavior when behind the wheel. With the advent of smarter and more connected vehicles, this technology could be poised to reshape the way we drive - and how much we pay for the privilege. Car companies are starting to take notice, too.