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Auto Rates Slashed for Area Drivers

Jan 17, 2007

By Hillary Chabot, The Sun, Lowell, Mass.

Jan. 18--LOWELL -- No one has stopped Lowell police Capt. Robert DeMoura on the street to thank him for lowering their auto-insurance rates.

That might change after April 1, when good drivers in Lowell and some surrounding towns see their bills slashed by up to 15 percent due mainly to DeMoura and the auto-insurance fraud task force he heads.

The local discount is higher than the state average of 11.7 percent.

"The reduction this year is largely attributable to these task forces, particularly in communities like Lowell, who have been fighting insurance fraud," said Daniel Johnston, executive director of the Automobile Insurers Bureau of Massachusetts. "I've always said if we take fraud out of the system, we could get rates down."

Lowell drivers will see about $216 knocked off their insurance bills, while experienced drivers with standard coverage in the rest of the state will only see an 11.7 percent reduction and will pay about $114 less, according to Johnston's group. The average Lowell driver will pay about $1,210, down from $1,426 last year.

"For years we really couldn't do anything about it," DeMoura said of fraudulent claims before the task force started in 2004. "We worked really hard over the past couple of years, and even though we only have two people, they just aggressively went at it."

Good drivers who renew their policies before April won't see the savings until they renew next year, Johnston said.

Lowell had the fourth highest reductions in the state, after Lawrence, which had a 24 percent cut, Dorchester, with a 17.8 percent cut, and Springfield, with a 17.7 percent cut.

Other Greater Lowell communities will also enjoy lower average rates. In Chelmsford, rates will fall about 9.7 percent, from $822 to $742. Billerica drivers will see a decline of about 10.9 percent, from $922 to $821. In Tewksbury, rates will fall about 7 percent, from $883 to $821. Dracut rates will fall about 8.5 percent, from $960 to $877. Tyngsboro drivers will get a break of about 10 percent, from $848 to $763.

The Lowell fraud task force has arrested at least 15 people in connection with auto-insurance fraud in the last six months, DeMoura said.

Thanks to the task force, personal-injury claims in Lowell have dropped by 31 percent since 2002, when local drivers made 3,277 claims costing $10.3 million. Drivers made only 2,271 personal-injury claims in 2005, costing $6.9 million.

Rep. Kevin Murphy, D-Lowell, also credited the Lowell delegation for keeping the pressure on former Insurance Commissioner Julianne Bowler to lower rates for urban drivers, who shoulder higher rates. Lowell drivers still have one of the highest insurance premiums.

"Lowell has been treated unfairly, which is why we need to keep the pressure on," said Murphy, who has refiled a bill asking to give city residents who are good drivers a tax cut to make their payments equal to those in the suburbs.

Hillary Chabot's e-mail address is [email protected]


Copyright (c) 2007, The Sun, Lowell, Mass.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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