As Formula 1 season shifts into gear, Chris Boatman assesses the underwriting implications of motorsport.
The latest underwriting research at RGA shows motor sports are safer than ever. As a result, ratings are not only lower for professional drivers, but standard rates are now possible for virtually all amateurs.
Over recent years, motor sports have gone from perhaps one of the most dangerous sporting activities, to one of the safest. This remarkable change is primarily the result of improvements in automobile design, safety devices and standards, technology and stronger regulation.
The dramatic and persistent reductions in fatalities in all motor sports stemming from these items have allowed insurers to introduce significant reductions in life insurance costs.
The tragic death of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon in 2011, at the US IndyCar Series in Las Vegas, captured headlines in both the US and the UK, in part because of how rarely fatal accidents now occur in motor sports.
Wheldon was one of 18 UK nationals to die in professional and amateur motor sport (not including motorcycles) in the last six years – a rate far lower than the 25 fatalities among UK nationals in the six years from 2000 to 2005.
More than 5,000 motor sport events are held each year in the UK alone, involving 200,000 participants in some capacity. The overall mortality rate for all types of motor racing is however currently well below 0.10 per thousand per annum, according to RGA’s most recent research.
This is allowing far more participants to be accepted at standard rates for life insurance. This is also accelerating the application process for amateur motor sport enthusiasts, as they will no longer need to complete lengthy questionnaires.
The last Formula 1 deaths were those of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. The safety-driven rule changes introduced in 1998, plus regulations and safety devices brought in since then, have made F1 today a much safer sport. In addition, the provision of medical care at Formula 1 competitions has improved remarkably since the 1980s.
Due to the low number of participants in F1 racing, however, the standalone data for its participants is not credible: even one new death would substantially increase F1’s mortality rate. In view of this, some caution on the part of underwriters is still required, but because of the sport’s increased safety overall, reduced ratings are still justifiable.
Other circuit racing
RGA’s research has found that the safety record for all forms of circuit racing is currently excellent, with a mortality rate of less than 0.10 per thousand per annum, and no discernible difference between the various categories of circuit racing.
This improvement in mortality is allowing both amateur circuit racing drivers and professional racing drivers competing in national events to be accepted at standard rates.
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