2010: Will GEICO invest in driver feedback technology to discourage distracted driving?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hello. My name is David Clayman (PH) and I come from Chicago, Illinois. This question is for Mr. Buffett and Mr. Gates, principally as Berkshire shareholders, but also as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation trustees.
The leading cause of death for Americans my age are motor vehicle crashes. Over 6 million occur each year and you insure a significant number of these crashes.
The World Health Organization ranks motor vehicle crashes as the 11th leading cause of death in the world.
A new category of technologies are reaching the market. These technologies not only reduce driver distraction but also deliver positive feedback to drivers to help make drivers aware of how well they’re driving or how much better they could be doing.
Will GEICO or the Gates Foundation make an aggressive and visible bet on driver feedback technologies to stimulate road focus and save life, liberty, property, and insurance premiums?
I have a note here for Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffett. I’d be happy if I could get these to you somehow.
WARREN BUFFETT: OK, I think we know your position. (Laughter)
The Gates Foundation, I think, has a fairly major initiative, along with Mayor Bloomberg, in terms of cigarette smoking. And I think you’ll find a whole lot more people have been affected by that than auto accidents.
Auto accidents per mile driven, auto deaths, have diminished. I thought I heard a figure of six — I thought the figure was more in the 30,000 to 40,000 range actually, but it’s diminished over the years.
You know, there have been a lot of things done to make cars safer. I’m not sure that cell phones and BlackBerries are among them. (Laughter)
And I think they actually are — there will be more people die in auto accidents because the cell phone and various other instruments were invented than would otherwise be the case. I don’t know how significant that item will be.
But everybody has an interest in bringing down fatalities. And GEICO has a very active safety program, testing cars, doing all kinds of things, working usually in conjunction with other insurance companies.
I do not think that — The Gates Foundation has fairly specific and intelligent, in my view, guidelines as to where they direct their activities, and they believe in focus, so they are not going to try and solve every problem in the world.
But I can assure you that the insurance industry, as well as auto companies generally, are continuously working to make cars safer.
CHARLIE MUNGER: I’ve got nothing to add. (Laughter)
WARREN BUFFETT: OK.