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Some Auto Insurers Are Sending Refunds To Customers As Crash Rate Falls

Updated at 6 p.m. ET Tuesday

The pandemic has emptied out U.S. streets as Americans stay home to avoid spreading the coronavirus. Less driving means fewer car crashes. Fewer car crashes means big savings for auto insurers.

And at least three companies have decided to pass those savings along to their customers.

Allstate is going to send out some $600 million in premium refunds. All 18 million drivers with Allstate auto policies will be receiving 15% of their premium, credited to their bank account, credit card or Allstate account.

"This is about fairness," Allstate CEO Tom Wilson said Monday, noting that driving mileage is down 35% to 50%, even in states that do not currently have shelter-in-place orders. "This is about doing it and not waiting to be asked."

Allstate is also offering free identity protection to all U.S. residents, saying the sudden rise of virtual meetings and classes — in fact, virtual versions of virtually everything -- exposes people to greater risk of cybercrime.

American Family Insurance, a smaller company, will be sending checks of $50 per car to more than 2 million customers. All told, American Family has $200 million in rebates on the way.

Chief Operating Officer Telisa Yancy said American Family is acting "out of responsibility to our customers."

On Tuesday, a day after the announcements from Allstate and American Family Insurance, Geico said it would also be refunding customers, through a 15% credit the next time each auto or motorcycle policy comes up for renewal.

Geico covers 18 million auto and motorcycle owners, and estimates the credits to customers will total around $2.5 billion.

Some other insurers, while not yet offering across-the-board pandemic rebates, can adjust premiums on a case-by-case basis for drivers who are suddenly not driving.

Meanwhile, if you have essential work that keeps you on the road, stay safe out there.

Allstate reports that while accidents are less frequent, the crashes that do occur seem to be more severe. The likely culprit? Speed. Drivers can go faster than usual on pandemic-emptied streets.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.